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A Steampunk Martial Art – Girardoni Kata

Parkour Gun KataSince posting my article on the Girardoni gun, ‘Steampunk Warfare – The Real Deal’, I find myself inventing a whole new martial art to accommodate the weapon.

As a writer, I love the way a simple decision can drive the development of a whole story world. In this case it is the adoption of a certain gun mechanism, but it could equally be a political, institutional, religious, technological, hierarchical or social idea, just as our response to these things change the real world around us.

A story world must hang together logically for the whole thing to feel real to the reader. To give your story an ‘other-worldy’ feel, just turn a social norm on its head and follow the logical consequences of that decision.

The other day, I took the family to see the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, UK. The Mary Rose is a Tudor warship built on the cusp of a military revolution – the introduction of cannons. She was originally designed in 1510 as a floating castle, from which bowmen and musketeers could help in the boarding and capture of enemy ships. She was refitted in 1536 with heavy cannon as a floating gun platform. The refit was only partially successful: she was so top heavy she could not turn with her gun ports open, because she leaned over so far they were under water. She tried the maneuver in battle in 1545 and promptly sank.

The museum clearly shows how the introduction of new weaponry changed the entire nature of offensive and defensive warfare during the ship’s lifetime. I highly recommend visiting the Mary Rose museum if you ever get the opportunity, it the best museum I have ever been to – 19,000 artifacts and everyone original.

I reckon, if the Girardoni gun system had continued in use, it would only have been a matter of time before a martial art was invented to accommodate the continuous reloading and firing of two Girardoni pistols used simultaneously.

I have researched the art of Gun Kata, invented for the film Equilibrium – but the moves mainly revolve around visually impressive, but totally impractical, stances for the camera. I have also researched Gun Fu, invented by the Asian cinema as a visually entertaining alternative to kung fu action films. Neither of these ‘disciplines’ serve any practical purpose other than to visually entertain – which is fine, we are all in the entertainment business, but they are particularly difficult to transpose into prose.

To satisfy literary demands, and still achieve the cool feel I’m after, I have had to invent my own martial art with which to populate my new novel, Coggler’s Brood.  This is a new departure from the weapons of Gaia’s Brood, and a fitting extension of the story world, so I am particularly excited.  I have called this new martial art, Girardoni Kata, a Steampunk Martial Art.

Based around Gun Kata, the moves are all practical ways in which to continuously reload, cock, and fire, two Girardoni pistols simultaneously, while taking on a large number of opponents in close quarter fighting.

Here are two of the basic moves:

A standing six, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen or sixteen point star, where the gun wielder aims and fires toward opposite points of the star, whilst rotating either clockwise or anticlockwise.  The practitioner reloads the breach block with parts of their upper body, killing their opponents with deadly accuracy.

A crouching six or eight point double-rate-of-fire star, where the gun wielder fires in a predetermined pattern, without accurate aiming, whilst rotating in a clockwise or anticlockwise direction.  The practitioner reloads the breach block with parts of their lower body, arms, and legs.  The objective here is to fire as fast a possible to create such a hail of bullets that the enemy are cut down and killed as they fall through the deadly curtain of lead.

All I need now is for some kind soul to make up a pair of mirrored Girardoni pistols with working breaches and cocking hammers, complete with gun holsters, so I can practice  my Girardoni Kata moves – I’m just not a good tinkerer, except with words.

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Writing Workshop – The MacGuffin

The MacGuffin is a device use by script writers, particularly in action and adventure films, to advance the action and maintain the audiences interest.

The term coined was by Alfred Hitchcock. He generally used it as a device to hold together the first part of his film. What is it? Anything which all the characters are interested in obtaining. In Psycho the MacGuffin is the $40,000 which has been stolen. The pursuit of this money provides the motivation which holds all the characters together in the first part of the film without giving away the whole plot. Hitchcock generally only used it as a device to hold together the first act. Ultimately, Hitchcock said the MacGuffin is just not important ‘It is nothing.’ Who for instance remembers the $40,000 in Psycho?

The Coen brother always use the same MacGaffin in each of their films: money, and it is always a red-herring. In their film ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ which is one of my all time favourite movies, three convicts break out of prison to retrieve a large stash of money. We learn later that the money was a hoax, but it keeps the film moving and gives everyone a purpose until the true objective is revealed.

In the film Safe, which I watched last night, the MacGuffin is a little girl who knows something. The protagonist and most of the Antagonists have no idea why the girl is important or what secret she knows, all they know is that their enemies are pulling out all the stops to find her, so she becomes important to them too.  Not until three-quarters of the way through the film do they discover what the chase, and the rising body count, is all about.  A clever script, I thought, and a theme I would like to use in a future story.

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas also use the MacGuffin as a device in their films.  In the original Star Wars movie, Lucas says R2D2 was the MacGuffin, which he used to hold the first act together in the classic Hitchcock way.  Spielberg, on the other hand, has a different view of the MacGuffin. For him, the MacGuffin must always be the ultimate prize.  Here the device is used to motivate the characters throughout the whole film.  The best examples are from the Indians Jones Series: in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, the MacGuffin is the Ark of the Covenant; In The Temple Of Doom, the holy stones; In The Last Crusade, it is the Holy Grail; In the Crystal Skull it is the skull. In fact, Spielberg likes the MacGuffin technique so much he is happy to have more than one. Not only will he have an overall MacGuffin, but he will have minor MacGuffins in each act of the film.

A MacGuffin is normally an object, but could be a person, that all the characters are interested in and that propels the action forwards. It could be the main objective of the protagonist and antagonist which drives the action throughout the entire film. It could be a step on the way to the main objective or it could be totally unrelated to the main objective and be completely forgotten by the end of the film. It’s purpose is solely to provide focus and move the action along. It’s a technique which readily transposes to writing.

In Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows you could say that the Horuxes and the Hallows are MacGuffins. They provide the necessary focus and motivation to propel the action forwards.  In my book Gaia’s Brood, the MacGuffin is Eve Swift’s journal.

A MacGuffin can also be a useful fix if you are editing and you realise your story just doesn’t hang together. Is there an object/person already in the story which can be turned into a MacGuffin (even if it is a complete red-herring) or can you introduce one. Look for ‘shotgun’ objects. By that I mean have you focused on an object in a part of the story but not used it – like the proverbial shotgun hanging behind the bar in a western: if it is shown it must be used by the end of the film, but nothing says you need to reserve it for the end of the story. If the pursuit or desire of the object will hold together the first act, by all means use it as a MacGuffin, secure in the knowledge that you are following in the footsteps of the greats.

So when you are next planning your adventure or action story, consider whether you have a MacGuffin or whether you need one. How many MacGuffins do you need? One overall object to provide a focus for the entire story or several steps along the way, or both. How about one to propel a (sub) story along, or maybe a total red-herring?

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Writing Workshop – Believable Heroes and Villains

The worst and best of humanity is yet to come.

1a7ac1964593d93334899fc5b6fc9516Today, is International Holocaust Memorial day—70 years since the NAZI concentration camp of Auschwitz was liberated.  It reminds us all of the depths to which human depravity can plunge, but it also reminds us of the great sacrifices some people will make for others—the best of humanity.

How as writers do we capture this in our characters?  The easy answer is to portray our protagonists as the best of humanity and our villains as the worst, but that results in flat, two-dimensional characters, in which no one, except younger children, are interested.

The reality, is that everyone has the ability within themselves to both plumb the depths of humanity and to soar to the heights.  The film Schindler’s List is a great example of the internal conflict within human nature.  Here is a man who does good things for bad reasons—this is the sort of character that keeps our readers glued to the text, furiously turning pages.

The twentieth century was probably the worst yet in terms of human depravity—mainly as a result of despotic atheistic regimes killing their own people in ever larger numbers.  Some may view that last statement as controversial, but the facts speak for themselves.

As our technical ability to easily kill large numbers advances, I believe that even more shocking atrocities will be committed in future centuries—though I hope and pray I am wrong.  The worst and best of humanity is yet to come (Nick Travers 2015).  This is a statement I make in the forward of the novel I am currently working on, ‘Coggler’s Brood,’ because I want to explore some of these themes in the story.

Do you think any of those despots in the twentieth century believed they were evil, or the villain of the plot?  Most, maybe all, sincerely thought they were making their society, and the world, a better place.  They alone were the courageous souls taking the necessary decisions others flinched away from.  In their eyes, and the narrative of their lives (more about this later), they were the heroes.

Every villain should be the hero of their own story; every hero should fear they are the villain.

As writers we are students of human nature.  We know every real person is conflicted, and those who are not, because of mental health or personality disorders, are in conflict with society.  We know that no one is purely good or purely evil; we know that every story, no matter how fanciful, zany, comic or alien, is really about the human condition.  Conflict is not just the nature of story, it is the nature of human beings.

This is why great writers often use religious or philosophical themes in their writings, because these disciplines concern themselves with trying to resolve the essential conflict at heart of each human experience.

To be real and multi-faceted, our characters need to reflect these internal conflicts, not just deal with the plot conflicts.  This means we need to know our characters inside out.  We need to know what motivates them and what conflicts they carry inside themselves.  Make every villain the hero of their own story.  To do this, of course, we need to plot out our villain’s story in the same way we plot out our protagonist’s story.  We always say to give our characters flaws, but how about making part of the protagonist’s conflict a nagging doubt that they are the villain, and their actions are forcing others into doing bad things—if they stop, perhaps the bad things would stop too or have another character introduce this doubt.

A fundamental facet of human nature is that we all construct narratives of our own lives.  When something major comes along in our lives, we re-write the narrative to fit the events.  We might say it was ‘fate’ or ‘destiny’ or ‘that it was meant to be’, because we can clearly see how every twist and turn of our lives has led to making us the person we are today.  However, before the event, it is highly unlikely this featured in our future narrative.

Just as every real person has a narrative of their lives so every character in our plot too has a narrative.  To make our characters, whether hero, villain, or side character, real, we need to know and explore the life narrative of each one.  Reading enables us to explore all sorts of conflicts, situations, and solutions.  In a good book we can explore the big themes of life.  As writers, we owe it to our readers not to duck the big issues of life or present flat characters who have no internal conflicts of their own.  In our stories, we can, to a greater or lesser extent, explore the true nature of human existence.

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Gaia’s Brood

Gaia's Brood
Gaia’s Brood

Airships, floating cities, and Steampunk adventure. Let the fabulous Nina Swift sweep you into her incredible dystopian future.

The day after Nina Swift’s 21st birthday, she sets out to retrace her famous mother’s final, fatal, journey.  Within days she’s wanted for murder, arson, manslaughter, and piloting an unlicensed airship. Soon, everyone wants as piece of her: Literally.

Order it now from these sites:
Amazon UK
Amazon USA
Kobo Books
Nook Books

Appreciation for Gaia’s Brood:

“This is probably the most amazing indie story I’ve ever read and I’m not even caught up yet. The descriptive words you use paint the picture so vividly it’s almost as if I’m watching a movie and the words simply help narrate. Incredible!” Lyrical_love22 (Wattpad)

“Nina Swift is incredibly well crafted! I’m only at chapter 3, can’t stop reading it.” @Alkinea (Author of the Blue and Green Fairy Tales).

Coggler’s Brood

Coggler's Brood
Coggler’s Brood

She’s back! With a mystery package to deliver, an atrocity to thwart, and a love interest in tow. Nina Swift immerses herself in Reaver culture to find the elusive Papa Doyle, cross swords with the Master Coggler, and deliver on a promise made to a dying Microtough agent.

More airships, more swashbuckling adventure, more dastardly villains, more Steampunk fun – it’s the return of the fabulous Nina Swift.

Publishing Winter 2015.  You can read the story, here, week by week as the novel develops.

Yay! Nina is back:) And the cover is sooo gorgeous.  Alki Nea

Helium3 Episode 1

Helium3 Episode 1
Helium3 Episode 1

This book is FREE – download it here in whatever digital format you desire.  A gift from me to you.

Today, at the centre of our galaxy, dwell small colonies of a most extraordinary species – humans.

Fourteen-year-old Mervyn Bright has courage, tenacity, and three close friends from the Space Academy: Loren, a brilliant but despised out-worlder, Tarun, heir to a once-powerful dynasty, and Aurora, niece to the embattled Patriarch. Together they make a formidable team.

Do you want 50% off Episode 2 as well?  If so, follow this link to my Free Stuff and find out how you can save more.

Appreciation for Helium3 Episode 1

Nick Travers has is a superb writer with an ease of delivery while keeping the plot taut, the line of complication always ascending to the climax, the characters well-fleshed and fascinating and doing it all in an easy reading style. Jay Squires.

I couldn’t stop turning pages till the book was finished. Great story, super lesson, well done. Must read the others now to find out how things end! I give this a big 2 thumbs up!!! Ruby Wolf.

Good start to what I hope is a long series, had a feel of the academy sort of like hogwarts, but written very well.  Robert Hanaburgh, Jr.

Fun start to a kids sci-fi series that wouldn’t be out of place on your bookshelf next to the likes of Douglas Hill’s Young Legionary series. Blue.

Nice book, I enjoyed reading it. I bought the sequel. Philippe Baranger.

Helium3 Episode 2

    Helium3 Episode 2
Helium3 Episode 2

At the center of our galaxy lives a most extraordinary species – Humans. Snatched from earth, generations ago, by alien slave traders.  Now they are beginning to make their presence felt in the chaotic conflicts of the galaxy.

Someone has destroyed Starlight, the mining asteroid Mervyn Bright calls home. He suspects scheming Lord De Monsero, but how can he prove it? Together with his three close friends from the Space Academy, he follows a trail of clues through the gritty underbelly of the galaxy to an explosive secret.

This is the second book in the Helium3 trilogy.  You can buy it right here.

WAIT – Click here and you can buy the Helium3 series Box Set for 40% less than the price of episodes 2 and 3 combined.

Helium3 Episode 3

Helium3 Episode3
Helium3 Episode3

Today, at the centre of our galaxy, dwell small colonies of a most extraordinary species – humans. Mervyn Bright and three close friends from the Space Academy must risk everything to escape Lord De Monsero, and save his family, but in doing so he must pitch human-kind into the heart of a galactic conflict neither desire:  it is time for humans to show their worth.

The concluding episode in the Helium3 trilogy.  Buy it here.

I assume that if you are buying the final installment you have enjoyed the series so far.  If this is the case, are you also interested in making some money from spreading the word to other readers?  Yes?  Then click here.