Whack! and Other Fighting Words


Well, okay, when writing a fight scene in a story or novel, you wouldn’t add sound-effect words like they did in the old Batman TV series, but you get my point.

The fact remains that writing about fighting is a whole different exercise in word usage than describing the inner turmoil of your character’s mind and soul.

Or is it?

One thing you don’t want to do in a fight scene is render a blow-by-blow account of the action.  Otherwise the description comes across more like a technical manual (otherwise known as bedtime reading).

The goal is to keep readers up because they’re totally engrossed in discovering the outcome (now if you’re into horror, the goal is to keep readers too scared to turn off the lights, but that’s another matter).  So writers need to put themselves (and therefore the readers) into the fight.

That doesn’t mean you need to go insult a crank and take notes on the sensory experience that follows (I’ve been locked in the trunk of a car in the name of research, but even I draw a line somewhere).  You can recall the effects of pain everybody can identify with (finger slammed in door, foreign object in the eye, stunned by a phaser … wait, not that last one?).

Research can get you acquainted with the particulars.  Read books about fighting techniques.  Watch fights on TV and the internet.  If you’re really gung-ho, take classes (it will help pry you away from the keyboard).

But the key is to make the fight as personal to the reader as it is to the character.  What motivated him to get in a scrapple (subdue the villain, or just get out alive)?  What are the conditions where the ruckus is taking place (city street or murky swamp)?  How skilled are the combatants (dependent on size and strength, or ninjas fear her)?

Of course your character will need to suffer at least one injury, even if he wins.  Otherwise readers won’t worry about him.  And the turmoil on his body will have an effect on his mind and soul.  Think about how he gets hurt, and work back from there.  Think about the repercussions of the tangle, and move forward.

And if it adds color, you might even want to throw in a good Whack! or even a Pow!….

Nobody is Prefect


Spelling is hazardous (and I’m not talking about magical spells).  Even people who are good spellers can run across problems if they ever become unwary.  Knowing where your failings lurk might help, but sometimes contrary words can still slip in.

The rules of spelling always have exceptions, and the tricky words don’t help.  Does I come before E and why the (bleep!) does C have any say in it?  Pleez reed this thru tonite and tell me if it’s rite.  Did he want to have dessert in the desert or is that the other way around?

Never fear, spell check is here … but it also has its limitations.  For one thing, it has absolutely no clue that canon law doesn’t mean he who has the biggest gun gets to make the rules.  Modern technology does help with some of the spelling issues, but double-checking any word you question is a good practice.

For instance, compound words give me fits.  I just did a double check if that example is supposed to be hyphenated (depends on if it’s used as a verb or a noun).  And if I ever wanted to become a ghostwriter I’d need to remember I’m neither ghost-writing nor ghost writing.

There’s always the dreaded homophones, which sound just alike but mean different things:  If you reek to the core, the corps may wreak havoc on you.  Then you might want to rein in their reign when the rain falls.

Tangled fingers can get you in a mess.  In the curse of your writhing you discover how many woods can chance into a dorm you lever meat.  All it rakes is dripping, aiding or witching only a netter or tow.  Sometimes I wander if it’s a Freudian snip.

Proofreading is essential.  And my apologies to all you prefects out there.  Yes, I know you really do exist….


To-may-to or To-mah-to: How to Pronounce Missouri


For those of you who don’t know, there is disagreement on how the name of the boot-heel state is supposed to be pronounced.  Even people living within the region are divided on how they say it.  Some claim it’s Missouree.  Others assert it’s Missourah.

There is the camp who calls it Misery, but that’s another matter.

Hubby belongs to the first group of believers, who in general tend to be younger and/or more urban.  And while we grew up less than an hour’s travel apart, he does hail from the city.  If you didn’t see this coming, I belong to the second group.  We tend to be older and/or more rural.

Hmm, disregard the age reference….

For those of you who don’t know, Missouri is a Native American word.  It seemed the best way to settle the matter was discover how the name of that tribe was originally pronounced.

This was not as easy as you might think.  For one thing, white explorers typically got the name for a tribe they were about to visit from the tribe they were currently with.  And that name was not what those people called themselves.  Both Navajo and Cherokee are names other tribes gave them.  They call themselves Dine and Ani-Yun Wiya (there’s some accent marks I can’t render here).

The word came down through a French filter, and other settlers would speak it using their own language characteristics.  In other words, it was looking like I might have to find a Tardis and convince Dr. Who-ever-it-is-at-the-time to take me on a trip.

It turned out a car was good enough and Hubby was my pilot.  We were traveling through Oklahoma.  For those of you who don’t know, that state was originally known as “Indian Territory” because during one part of our history the benevolent government decided the best way to handle the “Indian problem” was to dump them all in one location.

Did my sarcasm drip enough here?

We stopped at a park where there was a display listing the names of tribes in this country … and how they were pronounced!  At long last, I was going to settle the matter on  how my home state should be said.

And that was when I discovered that Missouri is pronounced:  Mih – zur – ee – ah.

What?  Really?

Hubby came to his conclusion naturally.  “Well, that settles it.  You just drop the last syllable, and you have Missouree.”

My gracious response was “Not so fast, bub.  You can’t assume the last syllable gets dropped.”

My discovery only muddied the water, which I suppose is appropriate.  On a side note, it used to be claimed that the translation of Missouri was muddy water.  I think this idea was inspired by the Missouri River, which has historically been described as “too thick to drink and too thin to plow.”

I suppose I could be stiff-necked and go around saying Mih-zur-ee-ah, but people who know me already have the local looney bin on speed dial.  Those who don’t know me would only back away slowly.

So when it comes to how to pronounce Missouri … we’re all wrong.  But now you know!

Arrested Development


He never liked taking prisoners, but this particular mission unsettled Reuben more than usual.

Earlier today he received orders to lead his section into the mountain range and intercept a citizen hiking to an enemy post.  Their scout, a local who lead them here, was also the one who provided the intel that their quarry was going to betray details about the squadron.

The captive, a “business partner” of their informant, sat on the ground, hands cuffed behind him.  His arthritic knees had kept his pace slowed, compensating for the hour head start he got on them.  And unlike the military combatants Reuben and his team usually tangled with, this resident practically surrendered once they caught up.

His mouth, however, was not so cooperative.

Perhaps it was because Keegan was the youngest of the team – all of them were well under thirty, for war’s appetite is insatiable for the blood of youth – that the forty-ish prisoner launched tirades at him about how all of them were going to pay for this affront.

“And you!”  He stared at the young man with confident arrogance.  “I’ll see to it that they give me your head on a platter!”

“You want fries with that?”  Keegan was standing nearby and appeared distracted with scanning through a confiscated data terminal.  Tyrone and Candice stood guard over the prisoner.  Their guide, Perkins, paced around the clearing while they waited for the remainder of the section to return from surveilling ahead on the trail they would soon abandon.

Reuben did loath capturing civilians.  Considering the propaganda the citizenry was deluged with, there were bound to be some individuals who believed the resistance movement was counterproductive to their prosperity … as anemic as it was.  Others preferred to hedge their bets with the established authoritarians who wielded the power of enforcement.

Before their captive could launch into another berating, Lorenzo and Tamika returned from reconnaissance.  The wispy woman that people tended to underestimate nodded in affirmation to Reuben as they approached.

“All’s clear in the perimeter ahead,” she reported.  “Nobody is waiting there to follow us back.”

Perkins, who wasn’t quite as old as the prisoner, smiled at her news.  “Excellent, then!  Let’s head on to the pass.”

The five people in his section looked to Reuben, who felt his gut clench upon hearing Perkins’s words.

Although they hadn’t needed a guide to follow the well-established trail their quarry took, Perkins was going to lead them on an alternate route going back.  It was standard procedure to avoid any routine the enemy could exploit to trace them.

And maybe that was the final, elusive clue that justified how Reuben’s enteric nervous system started twitching when he received these orders.

Perkins had been able to provide both information and interpretation.  They caught and collared their prisoner without a fight.  This mission couldn’t go any more smoothly….

It was his experience that life didn’t cooperate to this extent.

And there was something a little too cocky in their captive’s aggression.  Reuben decided it was time to shake things up and see how the pieces landed.

“Yeah … but we’re gonna go ahead and take the trail to get back.”

Perkins stared at him as though he just claimed to spy Bigfoot roasting skewered aliens over a campfire.  “That’s suicide.  We have much better concealment in the pass I’m taking you to.”

“The pass is a longer route.  We know this trail is clear because if our opponents were gonna outflank us, they would’ve done it already.”

“That’s not the point.”  Perkins shook his head.  “You know the best way to avoid detection is to alter your movements.  Changing that protocol would be stupid.”

He noticed, but made no acknowledgment, that Tyrone, Lorenzo, and Tamika started strolling into a circular formation around the scout.  “My enemy wouldn’t expect me to change protocol, and it’s my job to keep them confounded.  Therefore, we’re taking the trail.”

While their mouthy prisoner looked less confident, Perkins’s face reddened a shade as he pressed his lips together.  Then he released an audible breath.

“I still say it’s an idiotic idea, but I don’t have to follow your orders like these poor chumps.  I’m taking the safer route through the pass and hope to find you at the trailhead.”

If his thriving suspicion proved to be correct, it would be folly to let this fellow out of their sight.  “You may not be under my command, Mr. Perkins, but I would be derelict in my duty to keep you safe if I allowed you to leave alone.  You will come with us.”

His face reddened by another shade.  “I have the right to go where I want!”

Reuben locked his gaze on the man’s eyes.  “It seems to me you doth protest too much.”

Perkins stared back for a few seconds, and then spun around and bolted.

Tyrone and Lorenzo had already flanked him.  The first man tackled Perkins, and Lorenzo leaped into the fray a second later.  The struggle lasted only a few seconds before they hauled Perkins back to his feet, each serviceman holding his arms twisted behind him.

“You crazy hypocrite!” Perkins spat as Reuben stepped closer to them.  “You’ll be sorry for this!”

“Is that because your cronies waiting for us at the pass will get offended when we don’t show up?”

Their informant glared back in silence.

Tamika approached to slap cuffs on him, but glanced toward Reuben.  “I’d like to know how you figured that out.”

“We aren’t out of the woods yet.  They may yet come after us, so everybody need to stay sharp.”  He surveyed his team with the pride he felt in them.  “In other words, keep up the good work.”

As Keegan assisted Candice with pulling the first prisoner up from the ground, he smirked at Reuben.  “So for your next trick, are you going to make him believe he’s a pigeon?”


With this month’s prompt word for #BlogBattle being intercept, I was immediately put into a military frame of mind again.  Consider this episode to be something of a prequel to the entry I submitted last month. And be sure to follow the Blog Battler link where you’re bound to discover other stories to enjoy!


*#%! and Other Fighting Words


When I was in the checkout at the grocery store once, the cashier accidentally entered the wrong amount of money I handed her and confused the register.

She hissed “@$#*!” and then slapped her hand over her mouth and murmured, “Oh, sorry.”

I smiled with understanding, but my interior voice said, “You know, you wouldn’t risk offending the customers if you didn’t cuss habitually.”

It’s time for a confession:  I don’t curse … out loud.  The filter between my brain and my mouth (or fingers) is fully engaged.  I just hope it doesn’t go on the fritz when I become an old woman, causing me to walk around humiliating sailors.

What is it about the language that we use “colorful” words?  It seems that in moments of high negative emotion we need to be able to erupt with something short (about four letters), vivid (the shade is usually blue), and abrasive (there’s a nicer word for that).

And yet there are those who don’t need high negative emotion to employ such speech.  Like the rooster who crows “Cock-a-doodle-do,” their mantra seems to be “Any mood’ll do.”  (Yes, I noticed the rooster used fowl language.)  But what are the ramifications of peppering everyday conversations with swear words?

Language does change.  There are naughty words in history that are acceptable today (like nasty, interestingly enough), and there are some historically common words that are taboo in modern times (I will neither confirm nor deny what those are).  They can also vary among cultures:  If I say “bloody rooster” in the US, it means we’re having him for dinner.  In the UK, he wouldn’t come to dinner because I’ve just insulted him.

There has been a trend in this culture for people to swear more.  I don’t know if they think it makes them appear independent and self-determining, but to me it makes them appear to have the vocabulary of a barnyard rooster.

Time for another confession:  I will curse out loud during moments of high negative emotion (“There’s a %#*$ snake in the chicken house!”), or within certain parameters for humor (wait for it….).

It would seem that naughty words are kind of like Christmas, which comes only once a year.  When used sparingly, they maintain the potency they’re meant to convey.  But if they get used casually, they just become dull and plodding.  Remember, Monday comes every week.

Sterner Rooster


Any *#$@ questions?

A Tale of Three Kitties (AKA Woody’s Revenge)

I’m going off the rail this week, but hey, it’s my blog, I can shake things up if I want to.  The events in the following story are all true.  Only the names of the innocent have been changed (except nobody in this account is innocent, so don’t worry about it).


A lifetime ago in cat years, I heard plaintive mewing in the woods behind our house.  When I went to investigate, a gray and white kitten saw me coming and assumed I was hungry, so he dove into the center of the woodpile he’d been standing on.  I called to him for a little while, shrugged, and assumed he was hungry.

Instead of running back into the house to hide, however, I set out a bowl of scraps for him next to that woodpile.

The way to a kitten’s heart is through his stomach.  He adopted us, and we named him Woody.

Woody proved to be exceptionally intelligent.  For example, one evening I brought a batch of chicks home from the hatchery, made sure they got squared away safely in the stock tank we used as a brooder, closed the doors of our workshop, and went to bed.

The next morning I opened the workshop … and out walked Woody.  Yikes!  I’d accidentally locked him in overnight with a buffet of fluffy meatballs!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’d already seen this cat use mouse tails to floss feathers out from between his teeth.  This was also the cat that left dead frogs on our porch to show how much he loved us.  My only hope was that there had been enough chicks in the tank that he decided to leave some for leftovers after he ate his fill.

But to my surprise and relief, not only were all the chicks there, nobody was experiencing post-traumatic stress.  For a minute I thought Woody might not have even realized they were there, but then I noticed something.

Against the wall of the tank there was a cat-sized depression in the shavings.  Woody had found a warm place to nap during the night.  I suppose counting chicks helped him to fall asleep.

Fast forward a few years.  Woody was middle-aged, and our younger son wanted a kitten.

baby toniEnter Toni.

Toni loved Woody.  The feeling wasn’t mutual.  After the initial hissing and swatting, Woody then shrugged his shoulders and accepted that she lived here, too.  It’s possible he might have been able to take a liking to her, except….

Toni’s favorite game was Ambush.  One time Woody was walking by the car when she leaped out from underneath, tap danced on his noggin, and then shot off to vanish into the barn.

Woody wheezed and gasped and sputtered before he finally got out his hiss.

Despite his near occasions of heart attacks, Woody lived a long and full life.  The fact Toni grew out of ambushing him probably helped.  But eventually old age took Woody from us, and we agreed that the next time there was an opportunity to get a free kitten, we’d take it.

baby trumanEnter Truman.

One of the reasons we selected him from that box of barely weaned sugar-pusses was because his color sort of reminded us of Woody.  And until he got big enough to move outside permanently, we used his alfresco excursions to introduce him to Toni.

Truman loves Toni.  The feeling isn’t mutual.  After the initial hissing and swatting, Toni stuck out her lower lip and accepted that he lives here, too.  It’s possible she might be able to take a liking to him, except….

Toni is old enough to qualify for the senior discount at the grocery store, but at least for nearly all her life she’s been accustomed to having another cat around.  We think Truman messes with her mind.  Sometimes she’ll run up to him and sniff noses … and then hiss.

She possibly thinks he’s Woody (they even look similar, for crying out loud!), but it might not be disappointment that hits her when she realizes he isn’t.

Sometimes we wonder if Toni suspects the day is coming that Woody will get his revenge through Truman.  That one day she’ll be minding her own business when he suddenly bounces off her brainpan and it takes her twenty seconds to get her hiss out.

Toni_Truman1  Oh, and in case you were wondering, I’ve never lost a chick to a cat.  It’s as though Woody took the time to instruct Toni that she can eat anything else she catches, but the chicks are off limits.  Hopefully his legacy will live on through Truman.  In a way it’s like he’s up there in cat heaven looking down on us, a hissin’ and a grinnin’ the entire time.