Featured From the Archives: How to Write Martial Arts Fight Scenes

For the past few weeks, this post has surfaced almost daily in my stats, making it by far my most popular article ever. The fact that it is continually being Googled probably means that I would do well to post it again, don’t you think? Maybe the universe (and by universe, I mean all you lovely authors out there with the power to Google stuff) is trying to tell me that this information could benefit someone at the moment. Never one to ignore omens (my whole urban fantasy series is based around the concept of synchronicity, after all), I’m going to do just that.

This week’s feature is a little over a year old, but it’s as valid today as it was then, and I hope it helps those who are searching for it. Enjoy! 😉
 

How to Write Martial Arts Fight Scenes

by Kisa Whipkey

(Originally Posted on 8/9/13)

 
Fight scenes. Whether live action or written, they can be such a pain to pull off, falling all too easily into the realm of cheesy. You know the ones I mean; we’ve all seen and read them — fight scenes where the creator was more focused on what looks cool and/or badass, and less so on believability.

Recently, I sent a frustrated plea to the Twitterverse, begging authors to do their research before including the martial arts in their fights. Believe it or not, it wasn’t until after I sent that plea that the light bulb appeared and I realized I’m in a unique position to help my fellow authors. As both a martial artist and a writer, I have insight that could help authors overcome the hurdle of fight scenes. So today, I’m going to use that background to dissect a written fight scene and hopefully illustrate how to effectively incorporate martial arts techniques. About time, right?

First, let’s take a look at what you don’t want to do.

_________

Charlie grunted as his back slammed into the wall, his opponent’s hands wrapped thoroughly around his throat. He struggled, trying to kick his opponent in the groin but only managing to connect with the man’s shin. The attacker snarled, loosening his hold on Charlie’s neck. Without pausing, Charlie threw his left arm between them, turning to the side and trapping the attacker’s arm against his own chest before elbowing the man in the face.

The attacker stumbled backwards, grasping at his bleeding nose. Charlie didn’t wait. He had the upper-hand. He advanced toward his opponent, his hands raised to guard his face, his body relaxed into a sparring stance. The attacker glared up at him, straightening into a matching stance.

With a yell, Charlie threw a round-kick at the attacker’s head. His opponent ducked, sliding between Charlie’s legs on his knees and jumping to his feet with a swift kick to Charlie’s back. Charlie stumbled forward, turning to face his attacker before he was struck again and instantly ducked the knife hand strike aimed at his head. Charlie responded with a flurry of punches, varying his target from the man’s head to his torso and back again. The man blocked most, but a few landed, knocking the attacker from his feet.

Charlie stood over him for a split second before finishing him off with a well-placed axe kick to the sternum. As the attacker rolled on the ground, sputtering, Charlie ran for the safety of a nearby cafe.

_________

Now, that’s shockingly not as bad as some I’ve seen, although it’s sure not going to win me a Pulitzer either. Some of you may even think this is an all right fight scene, aside from the obvious grammatical flaws that could be fixed with a few more drafts. But this is the example of what not to do, remember? So let’s figure out why.

Did you notice that I gave you very little about why this fight is happening, or where? I didn’t even give you the attacker’s name! But I did tell you in agonizing detail the techniques they’re using and where the blows land, placing all the emphasis on the choreography, and none at all on the characters or motivation behind this moment. The result? A laundry list of steps you could re-enact, but that you feel not at all.

That’s because this approach is all telling. That’s right, the infamous telling vs. showing debate. I tell you exactly what’s happening, but I don’t show it at all. You don’t feel invested in Charlie’s situation. You don’t feel the emotions. You feel excited, sure, because it’s action, and even poorly written action is exciting. But it has no lasting impact on you, does it? This scene is about as forgettable as they come.

It’s also unrealistic. Who out there noticed the completely implausible choreography I threw in? I know the martial artists in the audience did, because it screams “cool factor,” its entire existence a nod to something awesome and badass, but that, in reality, is actually physically impossible.

If you guessed the knee slide under Charlie’s legs, you’d be correct. Bravo! You get a cookie.

This is why it’s important to understand the dynamics of a fight, not just the choreography. Those who have done a round kick know that while performing it, you balance on one leg, your body positioned so that your center of gravity is entirely over that back leg. If someone were to try and go through your legs the way I described, they would take out your supporting leg and you’d both end up in a flailing pile of limbs.

And then there’s the knee slide itself. If you read it closely, you realized the attacker is standing still. Where’d he get the momentum for a knee slide? Unless they’re fighting on a slick, hardwood floor that’s just been mopped, he would need a running start. I don’t know about you, but if I tried to drop to my knees to slide anywhere, I’d be sitting on the floor looking like an idiot asking to get kicked in the face. It’s just not believable.

So let’s try that scene again, this time, fixing all those things I called out.

_________

Charlie grunted as his back slammed into the wall, Eric’s hands wrapped around his throat. Hate emanated from his friend’s eyes, judgement and accusation burning them into a sinister shade of blue. Charlie gasped, choking as Eric’s fingers cut off his air like a tourniquet.

His mind screamed at him, desperate to know why it was being punished. His lungs burned, his mouth working like a fish on dry land, sucking in nothing but fear. The edges of his vision started to grow fuzzy, black dots appearing over Eric’s shoulder, distorting the red glow of the club’s EXIT sign like reverse chickenpox. Panic flooded his veins with adrenaline. He struggled, clawing at the fingers sealed around his throat. He tried to kick Eric in the groin but only managed to connect with his shin, the impact ricocheting painfully through his foot.

Eric snarled, loosening his hold, giving Charlie the opening he needed. He threw his left arm between them, turning to the side and trapping Eric’s arm against his own chest before elbowing his best friend in the face.

Eric stumbled backward, grasping at his bleeding nose. Charlie didn’t wait. He advanced toward his opponent, his hands raised to guard his face, his body relaxing into the sparring stance he’d practiced for years– knees bent, weight forward on the balls of his feet, head lowered. Eric glared up at him, straightening into a matching stance. Their eyes locked. It was just like old times, only now there was no one to referee the match, to stop it before it went too far.

All this for a girl. Charlie knew it was ridiculous, that he should walk away, but fury mixed with adrenaline, coursing through him like a pulsing heat. If Eric wanted a fight, that’s what he’d get.

With a yell, Charlie threw a kick at Eric’s head. Eric ducked, sliding easily into a leg-sweep, knocking Charlie’s support from under him. The ground smashed into his back, forcing the air from his lungs in a rushing wheeze. He rolled backwards to his feet, still fighting against the tightness in his chest. Eric closed in on him, pushing his advantage, arms and legs flying. Charlie blocked as many of the blows as he could, his arms jarring in their sockets every time he did, his ribs and face blossoming with pain every time he didn’t. He stumbled back through the shadows of the alley until he was once again cornered.  Cringing, he held his hands up in surrender. Eric backed off, eying him warily as he spit blood onto the darkened pavement.

Charlie’s knuckles were bleeding, his ribs bruised, and his lip split into an oozing gash. It was time to end this.

“All right, I give,” he said,  the words gravelly and pained as he forced his battered throat to work. “I’ll never go near your sister again.”

_________

Still not the most epic writing sample, but you see the difference, I hope? Now, we not only know who Charlie’s fighting, but why. I’ve also fixed the choreography so that it’s believable, and added emotional content and description, putting the focus on the characters instead of the martial arts. No one cares about the techniques, but they care a lot about how those techniques feel, the emotion behind the action. Understanding that is the difference between creating a scene from a clinical distance and creating a deeper POV that will resonate with readers.

So, how can you take your fight scenes from flat to amazing? Easy, just remember these three things:

  1. Show, don’t tell. The techniques themselves are not important, the emotion is. Only use a technique name if there’s a reason we need to know the exact kick, etc.
  2. Believability is king. Never throw something in just because it sounds awesome. Make sure it’s actually physically possible and makes sense with the choreography and your world.
  3. When stumped, ask an expert. If you’re at a loss, find someone familiar with the martial arts and ask. Don’t just rely on Google and Youtube. They won’t give you the insight personal experience can.

That’s really all there is to it. Not so hard after all, is it? And if you ever find yourself in need of some martial arts feedback, I’m always available. Just send me a note with your questions, and I’ll happily provide some help. 🙂

Featured From the Archives: The Pros & Cons of Posting Work Online

Today, I released the first chapter of Unmoving into the truly unmonitored (otherwise known as free) pool of internet fiction. The dedicated among you will remember me talking about doing this very thing over a year ago. And while I did launch half of my master plan (the VIP Subscription option), I never did take the plunge into widespread distribution. That’s right, I chickened out. Because putting your work out into the ether, for free, is scary.

But today, I changed that. Unmoving is now available for your perusal on StarterSerials.com and will be joining the ranks of Wattpad and Figment soon. In honor of finally taking that leap, I thought it would be fitting to pull this particular article out of the archives, dust it off, and send it back into the world to help any of you wrestling with this very decision.

But before I let you go, I’d also like to announce a slight change in the posting schedule here on Nightwolf’s Corner. Due to the unexpected popularity of my book review option and the almost split personality my blog’s starting to take on, I’m adding a new addition to the roster: Book Review Wednesday. Yep, I’m splitting the book reviews off and giving them their own dedicated space, which leaves Friday’s post free and clear to resume the articles I’m sure some of you are missing — the snarky, informative ones about all things publishing, writing, martial arts, or whatever. Book Review Wednesday won’t happen every week, but the regular Friday posts will. I simply don’t read fast enough to post reviews on a weekly basis, but I think we can all safely assume I’ll be able to maintain the content you’ve come to expect every Friday.

And speaking of, let’s get back to the original point of this post . . .
 

The Pros & Cons of Posting Work Online

by Kisa Whipkey

(Originally Posted on 3/8/13)

 
It’s been 6 months since I posted about my bold marketing plan involving Wattpad & Authonomy. (Yikes! Where did the time go? Feels like I blinked and it was already March!) Those of you who follow me regularly will have noticed the distinct lack of announcements pertaining to said marketing plan. Why? Because I’m afraid. Afraid of making the wrong move; afraid of ruining my chances at becoming a successful author; afraid of facing down the ultimate demon of failure. I’ve second-guessed myself into a frozen stupor instead of trusting my instincts and jumping in head-first.

This isn’t the first time I’ve shot myself in the foot, letting fear keep me from pursuing my dreams. But it will hopefully be the last. In an effort to convince myself that the naysayer in my brain needs to be duct-taped to a chair in the corner and silenced, I spent the past week revisiting the reasons I created my crazy marketing scheme in the first place. And since my OCD side loves to make lists whenever I find myself spinning in circles like a confused dog, here are my top 3 pros and cons for posting work online.

PROS:

The internet is full of horror stories about how posting online can backfire like a pipe bomb, obliterating your chances at a successful writing career. And for someone like me, with a crippling fear of failure shackled to my every move, it can be incredibly hard to see past these anecdotes. But the truth of the matter is that posting your work online can also be the best move an indie author ever makes. In fact, there are even a few hope-inspiring articles popping up about the success you can find this way, such as this one by Lindsay Buroker on the merits of Wattpad. So before we wander down the more easily traveled road of negativity, let’s explore some of the good things about posting online.

  • Exposure:

The most obvious perk is the unlimited access to potential readers. The hardest job for any author is getting their book in front of people; something that’s becoming increasingly more difficult as the market gets flooded. So why wouldn’t you want to exploit every possible avenue of exposure? Manuscript Display Sites like Wattpad, Authonomy & Figment open windows into audiences you may not have found otherwise. Similar to the library, you offer your work for free (in serialized form) and gain instant access to thousands of readers. Some of whom are bound to become fans. Right?

  • Feedback:

The second big reason writers post their work online is for the feedback. Since you don’t need a completed manuscript to start generating interest, you can use the internet as a giant pool of beta readers. The critiques obviously range in value, but the chance to gauge reader response while your work’s still in process is pretty awesome. The trick is not to let the feedback you receive compromise your work. You can’t please everyone, after all.

  • Motivation:

Personally, I work best under a deadline. But it has to be imposed by someone else. I’m notoriously good at breaking deadlines I’ve set for myself, brushing them aside with flimsy excuses and promises to get them done later, because there are no repercussions. Aside from being a slacker and not getting my work done, that is. But as soon as you post something online, you answer to someone else. I don’t know about you, but the thought of disappointing my fans (all four of them) is a better source of motivation than caffeine. And Lord knows I could use some help in the motivational department these days.

CONS:

The world of online literature isn’t all rainbows and butterflies though. There are just as many reasons not to post your work as there are reasons to do it. In fact, I daresay there are more reasons why you shouldn’t. Here’s just a few of the major points:

  • Loss of First Publication Rights:

The biggest deterrent to posting online is the fact that you basically throw away your First Publication Rights. This doesn’t matter much to authors planning on self-publishing, but it’s death to any project trying to go the traditional route. Unfortunately, publishing online does count as being previously published. Which means that once you’ve posted online, you’ve basically committed to being an indie author. If you think your work has even a shred of marketability via traditional means, you’d be best to avoid this route like the plague.

  • Giving Work Away for Free:

It goes against most writer’s instincts to take a project they’ve invested in for so long and just give it away. It feels like you’re devaluing your time, declaring that your work isn’t good enough to deserve compensation. But is that really true?

In a market that sees thousands of books published every day, (with a majority of those being questionable in quality), it can be nearly impossible to get readers to take a chance on someone new. In this economy, consumers are appropriately stingy with their money, trusting in names and products they’ve been previously exposed to. By giving your work away for free, you offer them a chance to try something new without financial risk. If they like your work, you’re then on the list of trusted names and will likely see sales on your subsequent titles. But that still means sacrificing one of your projects to something intangible that may not ever turn into monetary reward. Like all gambles, it’s hard to tell if it’s worth it.

  • Plagiarism:

Any time you publish something online, it’s immediately exposed to the possibility of theft. That’s just the nature of the art world. Yes, there is recourse for artists/authors that have been wronged, falling victim to the pirates of plagiarism, but it doesn’t lessen the blow. Which is why you’ll see this fear thrown around in nearly every literary forum. The thing is, the likelihood of plagiarism is a lot slimmer than people think. Yes, it happens, and yes, it sucks. But the majority of people aren’t interested in stealing from you.

If you’re a creative person, then chances are good this isn’t your only project. And as much as it would suck to lose it to plagiarism, it really wouldn’t be the end of the world, would it? You could always go on to write more; create another masterpiece. The thief doesn’t have that luxury. So even though this is a definite negative to posting online, it’s also an inevitable risk that every writer will have to take if they want to become an author. Your book can’t become a bestseller if it never leaves your desk drawer.

As you can see, there are some pretty strong arguments on both sides. And, as with everything in publishing, there doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut answer, no matter how much we might wish it to be black and white. The best I can tell is that you should assess each of these points on a project by project basis. In my particular circumstance, with this particular title, posting online makes sense. I was never intending to pursue traditional publishing with this series, so why not start gaining some momentum now by getting my name out there? I’m definitely still scared of taking the leap, but no one ever found success by playing it safe.

What do you think? Do the pros outweigh the cons? How many of you have posted your work online and to what result? I’d love to hear your experiences. 🙂

From the Editor’s Desk: Forever Kinda Love by Clara Stone

I know, I know. Another book review? This one’s a little different though, as it features one I actually had a part in bringing about. Remember that series of posts? No? Well, here’s your refresher then:

As an editor, (both freelance and under REUTS Publications), I have the wonderful opportunity to see amazing novels during their developmental phase. And I wanted to find a way to share them with all of you as they became available. (I also wanted to find a way to help support the authors that trusted me with their manuscripts.) So think of these posts as my own personal book recommendations, straight from the editor’s desk.

Today’s edition brings you the latest release from Clara Stone (aka Priya Kanaparti):

Forever Kinda Love

by Clara Stone

Forever Kinda Love by Clara Stone

Life’s. Little. Surprises.

The last thing seven-year-old Carrigan “Ace” Casper foresaw was an eight-year-old Heath Lovelly walking into her life the day her mother died. From that moment on, Heath sticks by her side, slowly becoming her strength, her confidant, and her entire world. What she doesn’t know is, she’s his saving grace, too.

Ten years later, Ace is handed another crippling challenge that threatens everything in her almost perfect life. Only, this time, she doesn’t turn to Heath, hiding the truth instead. But Heath knows Ace too well and won’t back down easily. He’s ready to do whatever it takes and will stay by her side until she accepts that their love is the kinda love worth fighting for.

Will he be her forever triumph or her unexpected downfall?

Two lives.

One story.

And an unexpected journey to falling in love.

Forever Kinda Love is a special breed of romance. Romance authors (and probably some readers) refer to it as a “best friends to lovers” story. Having married my best friend, I can attest to the fact that this type of love resonates deeply. Who wouldn’t want to end up with someone they can call their best friend? It brings a sweet innocence to the relationship, a bond that’s as solid as steel. And Clara Stone has captured it perfectly.

Carrigan (Ace, as she’s called throughout most of the book) first meets Heath when she’s seven. Huddled in a hospital waiting area, the last thing she expects to find is a friendship that will last. But that’s exactly what happens. Flash forward ten years and Heath and Ace are seniors in high school on the cusp of graduation, and they’re inseparable.  But they’re best friends, and nothing more. Heath has kept his silent promise to watch over the little girl who lost her mom, keeping her carefully shielded from his player status and parade of non-relationships.

When Ace meets the mysterious Vincent, though, Heath starts to realize that his feelings for her go far beyond his promise to protect her. He’s jealous. And he doesn’t like it.

But what he doesn’t know is that Ace feels the same way. She secretly wishes for more with Heath, but can’t fathom the idea that he’d view her that way. It’s not until an unexpected illness threatens to break the two apart that they both discover the courage to speak up.

Told in a split POV, Forever Kinda Love is an emotional roller-coaster, full of “will they/won’t they” moments and heart-wrenching beauty. Stone brilliantly weaves an authentic, teenage voice throughout, and every single moment–from the fast, head-first rush of young love to the battles with insecurities we’ve all felt–rings true. The voyeuristic way readers are allowed to see things the characters haven’t grasped yet creates a dynamic pull that will hook you and keep you reading to the end. We know they belong together, and we know how they both feel, but the back-and-forth dance as the characters discover those truths is simultaneously frustrating and completely honest.

I read this in draft form, and I can honestly say that even in its roughest phase, Ms. Stone was able to bring me to tears several times. This is easily the most powerful romance I’ve read in a long time and I highly recommend it. In fact, it’s even on sale right now, so you really have no excuse for not buying it immediately! (It’ll be $.99 through the end of the weekend.)

And, in case you’ve already read it and are looking for more from Clara Stone, you might want to check out her other book, Dracian Legacy, published earlier this year (some of you may remember it being featured here) and it’s upcoming sequel, Dracian Origins. Both are paranormal romance, rather than contemporary, but Clara/Priya’s signature mix of romance, best friends, and feisty leading ladies is just as present. At the very least, they’ll tide you over until her next “secret project” is announced. 😉

To connect with Priya and learn more about all her writings, be sure to check out her website, her FB page, and of course, her Twitter profile. And remember, Forever Kinda Love is only on sale for $.99 until Sunday, 8/17. Don’t miss out!

**Content Note: This is classed as a YA, but parents should be aware that the content, in my opinion, is appropriate for 17+ years.  It contains heavy swearing and steamy make-out sessions that will leave adults looking for a cold shower.**

Book Spotlight: Review of Salvation by James Wymore

Continuing with the new series of Book Review features, I bring you the first of my aforementioned foolish decisions regarding blog tours (okay, so that’s facetious. Blog tours are awesome, and I’m honored to be a part of one. 🙂 ) See? I even have proof:

Blog Tour Banner

 

Isn’t that image lovely? Here, I’ll show it to you again in its full glory, followed by my review:

Salvation

by James Wymore

Salvation by James Wymore

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

A man wakes on a frozen battlefield when a scavenging couple finds him among the dead. As they nurse him back to health, he is struck with the horrible realization he can’t remember who he is or anything about his past. Taken in by the kind pair, he begins helping with their farm. She even takes him to meet her family, especially her single sister. The ideal life offered in the high mountains of Winigh is shattered when he sees a transport bringing enemy monsters to the shores below. Cut off by high snow on the pass, their fate will soon be the same as the town his company failed to protect in the last battle, if this estranged soldier cannot help them fight off the next wave of invaders. Even worse, the people of the town don’t trust this Selene soldier. He has a strange resistance to their folk magic which some say make him as dangerous as the enemies preparing to destroy them.

Okay, let me first start by saying that I stumbled on this in a Goodreads ad initially (so if there are any authors reading this, apparently they do work, somewhat 😉 ). The cover art instantly caught my attention, and it had been a while since I’d found a good traditional fantasy, so I was intrigued. Listed as an epic fantasy, Salvation has everything you’d expect from the genre — a hero who is, well, heroic; large-scale battles that embody the definition of “epic”; and even a touch of romance.

The story starts with a soldier, wounded and barely alive, being found by scavengers searching the battlefield for useful materials. The older couple take the man in and nurse him back to health, naming him “Elwood” when it becomes apparent his lost memories will not return. Elwood embraces his new life, settling in to the simpler life of a farmer. Macey, his now adopted mom-type figure, even sets him up with her younger sister and romance blooms.

But peace and serenity aren’t in his future for long. The Hyzoi — an armored race of mermen — are gearing up to attack the small, isolated village Elwood now calls home, and he’s the only one who can help save the people who once saved him. But only if the people of Winigh decide to trust him.

Overall, this is a good story, and it had massive potential to be great. The cultures and world are unique and well-crafted; I especially enjoyed the new take on magic (which I won’t spoil because that would ruin it for you). I thought the action sequences were solid, and the descriptions of the food and gore interestingly detailed. But unfortunately, there were also quite a few things that pulled this one down, ruining my ability to become fully immersed in the story. I hate to say it, but it felt like an unedited manuscript to me.

Some of the worst offenders were:

  • Head-hopping: the story is told in what should be 3rd person limited, with Elwood being the POV character. But routinely, we are shown inside the thoughts/actions of the other characters, within the same paragraph and sometimes even the same sentence as Elwood’s perspective. I tried to give the author the benefit of the doubt and thought perhaps he was trying for 3rd person omniscient, but at the end of the day, it simply didn’t really work in either, living awkwardly somewhere in between.

 

  • The prose is littered with errors: tense problems, grammar issues (commas especially were misplaced and used inconsistently, making me wonder which style guide the editor was using on this…), and typos/incorrect words (ex: “heard” vs. “herd”). Some people may be able to look past these, but I found it distracting. And I read unedited manuscripts for a living.

 

  • Choppy timeline: there isn’t really any sense of flow between the chapters. Often, each chapter or even scene felt like it was written as a stand-alone episode, like a cut-scene in a video game. The transitions were abrupt, and we jump through so much time in the first few chapters that I lost all sense of timeline. This did seem to work itself out, a little, later in the book, but I felt like many places could have been expanded, which would have resulted in a richer experience for the reader. I would almost characterize the plot as reminiscent of film — fast-paced and full of “fade-to-black” transitions.

I don’t like to solely supply the negative facets of my experience though, so before I wrap this up, I want to point out the good. Wymore has massive potential as a writer, and I definitely look forward to more from him in the future. Salvation is a fresh infusion to the genre and featured many intriguing elements. I enjoyed the mystery of Elwood’s real identity, and actually think that’s the aspect that kept me reading most. Like my fellow reviewers, I figured it out well before the characters did (so perhaps the foreshadowing could have been toned down a little to prolong that element), but I still felt that character arc was one of the strongest.

My overall impression is that of a book that maybe could have been absolutely amazing in the hands of a different editor. Wymore definitely has the talent, it just needed to be cultivated and polished a little bit more.

**Disclosure Statement: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

 

 

Book Spotlight: Review of “Fred” by Drew Hayes

Some of you may have noticed that I now feature book reviews here at Nightwolf’s Corner. And for those who haven’t noticed (or who missed the announcement a while back), now you know. Why does this matter, you ask? Because along with that new feature comes a new post series to sprinkle into my ever-growing list of subjects. Periodically, I’ll be doing a book spotlight on select reviews, either because I feel like they are extra deserving of your attention and I don’t expect you to actually explore every page and corner of my site, or because I foolishly signed up to be part of a blog tour and am required to help spread the word about said book as much as possible. Either way, you get to learn about titles you may not have crossed paths with otherwise, so it’s a win-win, right? (And trust me, I only sign up to be part of blog tours for awesome books and you’d want to know about them anyway. 😉 )

This week’s candidate is the first option. So, without further ado, I give you my review of . . .
 

The Utterly Uninteresting & Unadventurous Tales of Fred, The Vampire Accountant

by Drew Hayes

 

Fred by Drew Hayes

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

 

Some people are born boring. Some live boring. Some even die boring. Fred managed to do all three, and when he woke up as a vampire, he did so as a boring one. Timid, socially awkward, and plagued by self-esteem issues, Fred has never been the adventurous sort.

One fateful night – different from the night he died, which was more inconvenient than fateful – Fred reconnects with an old friend at his high school reunion. This rekindled relationship sets off a chain of events thrusting him right into the chaos that is the parahuman world, a world with chipper zombies, truck driver wereponies, maniacal necromancers, ancient dragons, and now one undead accountant trying his best to “survive.” Because even after it’s over, life can still be a downright bloody mess.

 
I’m honestly not sure where to start with this one, except to say that this book is anything but uninteresting. Fred (as it was affectionately nicknamed in the digital hallways of REUTS Publications — and no, I did not work on this one) is, in a word, unique. As much because of its unusual structure as for the protagonist himself. Hayes has once again managed to take stereotypes and turn them on their head — a talent I continually find refreshing.

Frederick Frankford Fletcher was just a normal CPA until the night he was turned into a vampire, when he became exactly the same, just with fangs. Within pages, Hayes presents us with an interesting take on the age-old creatures of the night, playing within the mythology to create something new and yet familiar at the same time. And he continues to do that with a cast of quirky, off-the-wall characters that include such brilliant inventions as  a truck-driver werepony named Bubba. Yes, take a moment to process that. The image you’re picturing is exactly correct.

Through myriad adventures that literally had me laughing out loud at times (and I never do that), Fred discovers what it means to live, coming to terms with his new identity as a vampire, learning to love, and even finding a group of friends more loyal than any he had during life. While the shenanigans are awesomely ridiculous at times, the heart of the story is one I think many twenty-something people can relate to, and those of us past that mark can look back on with nostalgia.

The one thing that may deter some people from fully enjoying the story is the format. Broken into five novelettes and presented as excerpts from Fred’s journal, it doesn’t quite have the flow of a full-fledged, stand-alone novel. It breaks the fourth wall (which I normally have a hard time with), but does so in a way that helps the story connect with the reader, much like Mystery Science Theater 3000 did — with self-deprecating mockery and sarcasm. My advice to potential readers is to view this not as a complete novel, but as an omnibus of vignettes. Each story is complete unto itself, and while the entire thing does flow into a larger narrative arc, there is some overlap between them that can be a tad annoying.

I, for one, feel like Hayes’s signature wit and brilliant imagination overcome the uncommon format though. And I applaud him for trying a literary structure that has, perhaps, fallen out of favor in modern literature. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys shorter fiction, or who’s looking for a fun, entertaining, and heart-warming read.

And to prove it, here are all the links:

Purchase it here: Amazon, REUTS Publications

Connect with Drew: Twitter, Website