Writing Fight Scenes that Matter

David Keener Teaches Writing and Fighting

I ran my latest workshop, “Writing Killer Fight Scenes That Matter,” at Capclave 2018 on September 30. I had a lot of fun and the workshop was well received by the audience (I know this for sure, because I distributed a Workshop Evaluation Form at the end).

At conventions, the workshops are two hours long. The first hour was focused on violence: how people react to violence, different types of fights, gender differences in danger scenarios, and decision making in fights. The exercises were real life scenarios; attendees then had to figure out the best way to survive the situation presented. It was rather eye-opening and shocking for a bunch of them.

In the second half, I described a basic framework for fight scenes. We also discussed how to make fights more realistic, and more plausible, by leveraging the lessons from the first half of the workshop.

All in all, I thought the workshop went well. I look forward to conducting it at other conventions in the future.

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Selling Books at Capclave 2018

Selling Books with Tannhauser Press

I’m standing with Martin Wilsey, the proprietor of Tannhauser Press at Capclave 2018. We had a nicely successful weekend selling books, with seventeen products on sale (and Square for taking credit card payments).

Many thanks to all the people who stopped by our table, and especially to those who bought from us. It was especially gratifying since this was the first time we’ve done a full court press like this for all of the books published under the Tannhauser Press umbrella.

We were successful enough that we’ll be doing more of this in the future.

Capclave Table 2018

OK, by popular demand, I’ve added a couple more photos above. This is me with Lou Lamoureux in one photo and Liz Hayes in the other.

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My Capclave 2018 Schedule

I’m proud to be on Programming for Capclave 2018, the DC area’s best SF/Fantasy literary convention. The event is being held in Rockville, MD from September 28 – 30. Here are the details of my schedule:

Friday

Afternoon Dealer’s Room
Manning the table for Tannhauser Press and the Hourlings.
 

Saturday

10:00 AM Blurred Lines: Writing & Marketing Mixed-Genre Books

Sometimes, the book you want to write doesn’t fit into traditional genre patterns. Sometimes, it fits into ALL the traditional genre patterns. Authors who write books that defy standard shelving paradigms gather to discuss the virtues and pitfalls of genre-bending: finding your audience, marketing through genre-specific channels, generating industry acclaim, finding your niche, and more. Join us as we talk about how it really is okay to write that historical fantasy murder mystery in space!

With: David Keener, Jack Campbell (John G. Hemry), Brenda W. Clough, Andrew Fox (Moderator)

Afternoon Dealer’s Room
Manning the table for Tannhauser Press and the Hourlings.
 

Sunday

10:00 AM Author Table: David Keener & Laura Montgomery
Selling (and signing) books at the designated Author Table.
 
11:00 AM Making the Future Work

What things are necessary to make the future successful? What are the jobs and technology of the future? Which jobs are most likely to go away? Which jobs will stay and what will they look like? What should the underlying infrastructure of your future world look like? For example, what should go into planning for the city of the future.

With: David Keener, David Bartell, Bill Lawhorn (Moderator), Joe Stech

1:00 PM Writing Killer Fight Scenes That Matter (Two-Hour Workshop)

Does your story come to a screeching halt every time there’s a fight scene? Do readers think your fight scenes are…tedious…instead of exciting? How realistic should your fight be? Discover how real people react to violence, and how you can use this information to make your conflict more believable. Learn how to craft fight scenes that engage your readers, advance your plot and reveal character.

With: David Keener

4:00 PM Time Travel Storytelling

A discussion of the cultural implications of time travel. Should an author use appropriate to the time language in their time travel and historical stories, or is it OK to use modern sensibilities? Is it fair to readers to give historical figures beliefs that were never shown in their real life actions?

With: David Keener (Moderator), Doc Coleman, Iver Cooper, Alan Smale

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Workshop: Build a Space Battle

Workshop: Build a Space Battle While I was at Capclave 2016 this past October, I was asked by Cathy Green, the Vice Chair for Capclave 2017, to contribute a workshop to next year’s convention. As always, I’m gratified to be asked to do these types of things, and even more gratified that people seem to enjoy them.

I’ve done workshops for Capclave before, and each time I try to do something different. Past topics have included:

  • Public Speaking for Writers (2014)
  • Creating an Adaptive Setting (2015)

Capclave is run by the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA). At the WSFA meeting last Friday, I kicked a few workshop ideas past Elizabeth Twitchell, the con Chair for next year. The one we finally settled on was: “Build a Space Battle.”

The concept is that I’m going to provide a basic science fiction scenario. The tasks for the workshop attendees will be to fill in the details until we’ve collectively created a consistent background and timeline for a significant-sized SF space battle (hence the space battle pic at the top of this entry).

I’m looking forward to this. I think it will be a lot of fun for everybody involved.

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Micro Fiction Workshop at Capclave 2016

I attended the Micro Fiction Workshop at Capclave 2016 on a whim. Here’s the description from the program:

Micro Fiction Workshop
Coordinator: Dustin Blottenberger, Deidre Dykes (M), Brigitte Winter
Micro Fiction, a subset of flash fiction, are stories of 300 words or less. Learn how these word count restrictions force writers to boil stories down to their most powerful core elements. You will create micro fiction pieces through a series of exercises, learn about exciting markets for tiny stories and discuss how micro fiction can be a useful tool for deepening your writing skills.
Limited to 15 people.

Now, flash fiction isn’t something you can make a living at. And micro fiction, well, ditto. But what the heck? I figured at least it would be two hours of writing practice that would exercise literary muscles that I didn’t always use.

I was pleased to discover that Dustin, Deidre and Brigitte had put together an excellent workshop with well-organized content and useful exercises. Even better, the final exercise was to write a 101-word Halloween story (that’s 100 words plus a 1-word title). I ended up with what I thought was a rather nifty Halloween story with a killer last line…and a market to send it to. Next Saturday (10/15/2016) is the deadline for the Halloween “issue” of 101Fiction.com.

I’ll be submitting my story as soon as I complete some minor polishing.

Meanwhile, here’s the selfie that Dustin took at the end of the workshop:

Micro Fiction Workshop at Capclave 2016     Photo Credit: Dustin Blottenberger

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Capclave 2016

Capclave 2016: Science Fiction and Fantasy Literary Convention Capclave is the Washington area’s premier literary SF and Fantasy convention, hosted each year by the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA). I had a great time at Capclave, as always (it’s my fourth time), but especially from the business perspective of a burgeoning writer.

I was here with Marty Wilsey, a fellow member of my primary writing group, who was here to promote his indie-published military SF trilogy, the Solstice 31 Saga (it’s doing very well, by the way). I’m also on the verge of significant publication myself, with one of my novelettes due to appear this month in an anthology called Reliquary and another one about to be indie-published as soon as I can work out the cover issues with my cover designer.

From the business perspective, here’s what went really well:

  • Cathy Green, Capclave 2017’s Programming Chair, asked me to do a workshop for Capclave 2017. I’ve previously done workshops at Capclave 2014 and 2015.
  • I got to discuss the Reliquary anthology with the production team.
  • I got to discuss a future anthology, possibly two anthologies, that I’m putting together for publication next year.
  • I attended a workshop on “Book Design” put on by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, an industry professional who has successfully published many anthologies, including the highly amusing Bad-Ass Faeries series.
  • I networked with people who can help me promote my indie-published works.
  • I got to talk craft and business with other writers…who treated me as the professional writer that I believe I’m becoming.
  • I attended the “Microfiction Workshop” conducted by Dustin Blottenberger, Deidre Dykes and Brigitte Winter. I ended up with what I think is a publishable 101-word Halloween story and a venue to which to submit it.

In addition to workshops, I attended a number of great panels. One thing that was gratifying, and isn’t always experienced at cons, is that all of the moderators quite obviously spent time to both prepare for their panels and ensure that the content was suitable for the people likely to attend, i.e. – if the topic was aimed at writers then they made sure there was useful information for writers.

As both a writer and a fan, it was great conference and I look forward to attending again in 2017.

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Speaking at Capclave 2015

Two reasons to go to Capclave 2015: 1) it’s the best literary SF convention in the Washington DC metropolitan area, and 2) I’ve been invited to run a “Public Speaking for Authors” workshop there again this year.

[Editorial Note: After discussion with the Capclave Program Coordinators, it looks like I’ll instead be giving my new workshop, “Creating an Adaptive Setting,” formerly known by the title, “The Reactive Net.” For more information, click this link.]

Capclave 2015

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My First SF Panel

As a fledgling writer at Capclave 2014, I got to participate in my first panel at an SF convention. My fellow panelists were Paolo Bacigalupi, award-winning writer of The Windup Girl and the Guest of Honor for the convention; D. Douglas Fratz, the moderator for the panel, a writer and a climate scientist in his day job; James Maxey, a fantasy writer; and Max Gladstone, a fantasy writer. The topic of the panel was:

Writing About Climate Change: Climate change is the new nuclear winter. Post-apocalyptic novels used to be set in a post nuclear detonation landscape; now they’re set in environmentally wrecked futures. Most of these books are dystopian and theoretically predictive. Why do authors write the way they write about climate change?

Fellow writer Jennifer Povey was kind enough to “capture the moment” for me:

Writing About Climate Change

Writing About Climate Change: (left to right) Panelists: James Maxey, D. Douglas Fratz (Moderator), Paolo Bacigalupi (Guest of Honor), Max Gladstone and David Keener.

Clearly, I was the junior member of the panel. And Paolo Bacigalupi and D. Douglas Fratz were far and away the most expert on hardcore climate change science and policy. Nevertheless, I think I acquitted myself reasonably well. I was also pleased that my fellow panelists were quite nice and didn’t exhibit any of that bias against self-published writers that I’ve heard others talk about. I had a great time.

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Going to Capclave 2014!

Capclave 2014, Gaithersburg, MD

I’ll be going to Capclave again this year. It’s a small literary SF convention serving the Washington DC metropolitan region, probably around 450 – 500 people. We’re expecting attendance to be down from last year’s numbers, which were around 900 or so thanks to the “George Factor” — the Guest of Honor was George R. R. Martin, the author of the Game of Thrones series and the inspiration behind HBO’s hit TV series.

It’s October 10 – 12, so it’s only about a week away. As with last year’s event, it’s being hosted in Gaithersburg, MD. So, be there if you can. It’s money well spent, whether you’re a reader or a writer.

Speaking of writers, Capclave has also got an excellent Writer’s Track, which I’m proud to be part of this year. I’ll be conducting my workshop, “Public Speaking for Writers,” on Sunday, October 12th. This is a talk that is clearly on the business side of being a professional speaker, and which also leverages my extensive Toastmasters experience.

That same day, I’ll also be on a science panel with Guest of Honor Paolo Bacigalupi (I’ve learned how to say his name just so I can manage to not embarrass myself on the a panel — batch-i-ga-loopy), the award-winning writer of The Windup Girl. The panel is entitled “Writing About Climate Change.” Authors James Maxey and Max Gladstone will also be on the panel with me, along with D. Douglas Fratz, a writer and climate scientist (in his day job). It’s my first panel at an SF convention, so I’m really looking forward to it.

One more week, and then it’s off to Capclave!

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Presenting at Capclave 2014

Capclave 2014, Washington DC's regional SF conferenceOK, you can officially label me as surprised. I just unexpectedly landed a speaking gig at Capclave 2014, the regional SF/Fantasy convention for the Washington DC metropolitan area. Here’s how it happened…

I was attending a WSFA (Washington Science Fiction Association) meeting in early June. If you’re not familiar with WSFA, they’re the organization of volunteers that runs Capclave, as well as administering their annual Small Press Award for new writers, and publishing a few books each year by well-known writers. During the evening, I ended up talking to Cathy Green, the Head of Programming for the convention.

I asked Cathy what it took to qualify as a presenter at Capclave.

Now, I know from the conferences that I attend in my daytime IT career, as well as from the the technical conferences that I run, that you generally start planning your speaking engagements a year or so in advance. At least, you start planning for the ones that you intend to pursue; you don’t necessarily get picked for every conference or convention for which you apply (unless you’re a draw like Neil Gaiman or George R. R. Martin). So, I was really asking so that I could ensure that I’d be ready when I went to pursue a speaking opportunity for 2015.

Yes, that’s right. 2015.

However, Cathy knew some things about me already from previous, unrelated conversations. She knew that I attended two writing groups, that I had extensively researched all things related to indie publishing, and that I had experience running technical conferences in my daytime career (the one that pays the bills). She essentially took me more seriously than I had expected.

Without explicitly saying so, it became clear during our conversation that she was considering me for the 2014 Program. What probably helped was that I wasn’t the slightest bit pushy. I was inquiring about opportunities to present, I wasn’t aggressive, and I was perfectly fine if there wasn’t an opening. Trust me, just being “easy to work with” can go a long way sometimes.

I pitched a couple of ideas for her, including my “Pitfalls of Medieval Fiction Writing” presentation that I’ve been putting together. She didn’t bite on any of the ideas. Not that they were bad, but she had other panels that already covered similar topics.

During our conversation, I mentioned that I was in Toastmasters, which is a non-profit organization that helps people learn public speaking and leadership skills. I added that I had spoken at lots of technical conferences, which is something I’ve been doing since 2007. I figured that if she wasn’t interested in one of my panel ideas, maybe I could be a sort of backup speaker, capable of filling in on panels wherever she had an opening.

Then she asked, “How long have you been in Toastmasters?”

I said, “Four years. I’m closing in on my Distinguished Toastmaster accreditation.”

“Really? Could you give a workshop, say, maybe a 2-hour workshop, on public speaking for writers?”

Needless to say, I was surprised. But what I said was, “Yes. Of course I could do a workshop like that. It would be fun, too.”

So that’s how I landed speaking engagement at Capclave 2014. One of the things the convention organizers pride themselves on is having an excellent track for writers. It turns out that Cathy had a hole in the schedule for the writer’s track, and I had the legitimate skills and experience to craft a workshop that would fill the hole.

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