I've never been a violent person.
Except for the occasional bought of seeing-red road rage (seriously? If your left blinker is on, you should TURN LEFT eventually!), I've never been a violent person. And then my physical therapist raises his eyebrows and says, "so you think you got your injury...sword fighting?" And my best friend paws through my purse and says, "is this is a dagger?" and my niece asks if she can see my Tazer because it's the exact color pink of her Homecoming dress.
No, I'm not violent. Just well prepared.
Like every one of the NSA-scaring searches on my laptop and my library of books on poisons from Nightshade to Nitroprusside (when overdosed intravenously, of course), my weapons cache (and classes) are filed under "research."
But that doesn't mean I can't swing a sword, thrust a dagger, arrow an apple, or land a punch with the best of them.
If you're going to write mysteries or thrillers, danger is the crux of the matter. And unless you have a putz for a P.I., there's going to be some fighting -- and if you want to engage your readers, you'd better be able to deliver.
When I wrote UNDER WRAPS, my character Sophie Lawson learned to shoot. And so did I. In my mind's eye it was going to be steamy and romantic, with brass flying and my then cop-boyfriend's (TCB) arms around me helping me squeeze (never pull) the trigger to land the heart-stopping shot. In reality, the dust at the range kicked up and nearly choked me and TCB set me up and then stood beside me, arms crossed. The backfire nearly blew out my shoulder, the hot brass singed a path over my arm, fire shot out of the back of the gun, and someone kept screaming.
It was me.
Needless to say, in one afternoon my book went from one showcasing a kick-ass, leather wearing heroine to a slightly bumbling, chocolate-stained sweatpants wearing one who freezes up and tosses her gun at her night time assailant.
But every girl needs a specialty and every heroine eventually needs to land a punch or a kick or the final, climaxing blow.
So I took up dagger fighting.
And I was good at it. Really, really good at it. I fought with the boys and landed imaginary, organ collapsing stabs, learning how Sophie should hold her knife or how she would defend against one.
And then there was the long swords.
Another skill I easily mastered, likely from a previous life as a knight or ninja or some random person obsessed with all things pointy and sharp. It was fun, but great research, too. You can write a sword fight with authority when you've hefted the weight of a sword in your hands. You can stop writing light-saber like fight scenes when you know the majority of what you see in movies doesn't actually work with a true sword.
And as long as the daggers and the long swords were so much fun and added such intensity to Sophie Lawson and her Underworld friends, why not take up ax fighting? (Fast, scary, fun). Then side swords. Rapiers were a bit bland for me, but hand to hand was a sweaty, strength-of-body-and- mind-delight.
The best thing about daggering on Mondays, fighting on Tuesdays, and swashbuckling on Wednesdays? I can write it all off because I'm A Writer.