My Top Ten Die Hard Scenario Movies

Given the recent announcement of my Die Hard-esque Christmas novella, Christmas Tango, I thought it would be a good time for me to talk about some of my favourite cinematic versions of the trope.

The ‘Die Hard in/on an…’ cinema trope is one of my absolute favourites. I define it like so: the lone wolf hero, hidden in the midst of the action (which is all set in a single structure), slowly picks off bad guys one by one. Add in the inevitable one liners, and you have action movie gold. Though, not all Die Hard Scenario movies are born equal, so I’ll take you through some of my favourites.

  1. Dolph Lundgren (Detention, Command Performance, The Peacekeeper, Agent Red)

 

Yes, I’ve cheated by lumping these all in together. I have a huge and well-documented love for Dolph Lundgren, which is what gets these movies on the list, but he really does make some mediocre films. He seems particularly fond of making Die Hard Scenario movies, more than any other action star, which all have ended up being various levels of hilariously bad.

The Peacekeeper is probably the best of these four movies. Described as Die Hard in a Missile Silo, there is some reasonable tension and action, and Dolph really rocks the military uniform.

Detention is Die Hard in a School, and is pretty enjoyable to watch for anyone who likes so-bad-they’re-good movies. Though I was never really convinced of Dolph as a school teacher! Agent Red (Die Hard on a Submarine) is even worse, to the point where the ‘dead’ bodies breathe and the plot makes zero sense.

Command Performance probably had the most potential of the four films. Dolph plays a drummer in a rock band that goes Die Hard in a Concert Stadium. Despite a few fun moments (killing a bad guy with his drumsticks, using feedback on an amp to distract the bad guys and escape), it doesn’t embrace the absurdity of the premise nearly enough.

  1. Strategic Command /Passenger 57/Executive Decision

 

While these are three quite different films, they are all ‘Die Hard on an Aeroplane’, and should be compared together.

I have a slight soft spot for Michael Dudikoff (better known as American Ninja), or more specifically the movies he is in, which are usually slightly out of the normal way. It is really the only reason that Strategic Command is on this list. Bonus points for the villain having the last name Gruber (Richard Norton), and for including Bryan Cranston as a pompous reporter.

Passenger 57 stars Wesley Snipes, who plays smartass particularly well in this film. Snipes is off the plane too much for my liking in this film, as it decreases the tension somewhat and makes it less of a lone wolf hero film. But it is still definitely worth seeing, even if to marvel at how different a young Elizabeth Hurley looked.

Executive Decision is a fairly standard action movie, with a few surprising moments thrown in. While it is more of a team effort than a lone wolf hero situation, it does manage to successfully deliver on its premise to create an enjoyable film.

  1. Lockout

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This more recent effort starring Guy Pearce as a likeable arsehole is a really fun version of this trope. Guy Pearce is hired to save the president’s daughter (Maggie Grace), who is stranded on a prison spaceship orbiting the earth. The prisoners inevitably escape, and all hell breaks loose. It’s definitely an underrated gem for those that like some comedy with their action.

  1. Cliffhanger

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Sly Stallone stars in this ‘Die Hard on a Mountain’ movie that actually manages to be a good film, and transcend its derivate log line. While never quite living up to the heart-clenching tension in the opening scene, it is nevertheless a solid action movie.

  1. Sudden Death

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This Die Hard in a Sports Stadium movie is Van Damme’s first and best entry into this sub-sub-sub-genre of movies. (The other, for those of you playing at home, is Derailed, and only worth seeing for Van Damme super-fans). Van Damme’s charisma has elevated many of his less-than-stellar movies to watchable status, but thankfully Sudden Death manages to be enjoyable even apart from that.

  1. Home Alone

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Die Hard for Kids, basically. If any of you haven’t seen this, or don’t know what it is about, then I deplore your childhood.

  1. White House Down/Olympus Has Fallen

These are both versions of the ‘Die Hard in the White House’ trope. Both films are enjoyable editions of this trope, but White House Down had a lot more fun with the premise. I’m honestly very surprised that the Die Hard in the White House thing wasn’t thought of before.

Olympus Has Fallen had a sequel, (‘London Has Fallen’) which was also decent fun. (And another has been announced, Angel Has Fallen, which is a riff on the Air Force One scenario) I thought it was a shame that White House Down didn’t jumpstart a franchise, too.

  1. Under Siege 1 (& 2)

These are probably the last decent movies that Steven Seagal made (though an argument for Exit Wounds could definitely be made). Under Siege 1 is definitely the superior film, and makes good use of its Die Hard on a Warship premise. It was also probably the last time Seagal actually looked like an action hero, before his gigantic ego got in the way of his career.

Under Siege 2 is one of the MANY Die Hard on a Train movies, and barely manages to be the best of them. It’s fine, but isn’t nearly as memorable as its predecessor.

  1. Air Force One

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Harrison Ford kicks arse as the President of the United States. The best of the Die Hard on an Aeroplane ones, particularly since they spend most of the movie in the air.

  1. Die Hard 1 (& 2)

 

The ‘original’ and the best. There is a reason that the trope is named after these films. In equal parts tense and funny, Die Hard is easily one of the best action movies ever made.

 

Honourable mentions: Half Past Dead 1 & 2 (1, starring Seagal again, and 2 starring Bill Goldberg), Breakaway (with Dean Cain!), and Diplomatic Siege (with RoboCop himself, Peter Weller).

If I’ve missed any, or if you want to recommend me a movie (I always love recs!) then let me know in the comments below!

Christmas Tango Is Available For Preorder!

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Some of you may have already noticed, but Christmas Tango is now available for preorder!

A Soldiering On Novella

It’s nearly Christmas, and the last thing Duncan wants is to be dragged to a fancy party and made to play nice. And yet Mandy—his business partner and bane of his existence—somehow convinces him to attend a charity auction with her so they can scout potential clients.

Duncan is looking for an escape from the festivities when vicious armed men take over the building, trapping Mandy in a deadly situation. With no way to call for help, Duncan is the only one that can save her.

No weapons, a bad leg, and a growing realisation of his feelings for Mandy.

Yippee-ki-yay.

Author’s note: This novella can be read as a standalone, but may be more enjoyable to those that have read the previous Soldiering On books. This book ends in a HFN for Duncan and Mandy. Their story will conclude in the final Soldiering On book in late 2017.

I hope everyone enjoys the story! It’s a short Christmas novella featuring Duncan and Mandy, and it was so much fun to write. Fun fact: in my original plan for the Soldiering On series, this novella didn’t even feature. But the idea grabbed me after I’d finished writing Guarding Sierra and wouldn’t let go!

It came about because Die Hard is one of my favourite Christmas movies (and it is a Christmas movie!) and I wanted to do a fun take on it. You’ll find some fun little references to the film if you look hard. Let me know if you spot them!

I’m also doing something a little different with this novella: it will be an Amazon exclusive! Sorry to those that prefer epub titles, but I’d like to try out the Kindle Select option, and this seemed like a good way to do it. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that Amazon tends to be the biggest market for Indie publishers. But if it doesn’t work out for me, Christmas Tango will be available on other sites early next year. I’ll keep you informed!

I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I did writing it. Stay tuned for an excerpt later this week!

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Why Is Happiness Considered “Unrealistic”?

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When I talk about why I love romance – and happy endings – people often say “but they are so unrealistic!”

When this happens, the general response from romance advocates I hear in return is “It’s just a fantasy, like a crime novel!” But…why? Why are romance novels considered fantasies? I don’t really think they are. A heightened version of life, yeah, sure. And obviously the more fantastical romances are fantasies in that sense. But is the Happily Ever After really such an unattainable thing?

Let’s do an experiment, shall we?

Close your eyes, and picture all the people you know well. Friends, family, coworkers, the over-sharing guy that runs the corner store. You got them all? Right. Now, how many of those people would consider themselves happy, or even just content. A decent number, right?

I have friends and family going through tough times, but I also know a lot of people that are really happy with where their lives are. Some are married, or with partners. Some are single. Happiness is across all range of jobs, lives, circumstances. That doesn’t mean there is no conflict in their lives, that’s ridiculous. But these people are satisfied with where they have found themselves. Even the ones that aren’t happy now definitely will be one day – life is a series of ups and downs, but there are always ups.

So, let’s apply this logic to fiction, shall we?

The general progression of a Romance novel is two people go through some conflict, and end up falling in love. It’s a very simplified version, of course, but that’s the basic premise.

Falling in love is something that people do every day. I know many people in love right now. Married people. People in committed relationships. Sometimes other, more complicated scenarios. But it is still all love.

So why, when this is applied to fiction, is it suddenly “fantasy”?

Quite apart from the fact that romance novels are rarely just about that. Most are about conquering the bad stuff in life and triumphing. People I know do that all the time, too! They move away from the bad things in their life to get to a better place. It’s human nature.

So, again, why is this considered unrealistic?

I think we are doing a disservice to ourselves and our genre to say that getting to a good place in life and falling in love is unrealistic. It’s like saying that people will be miserable and never fall in love, ever, because that’s not a thing that happens in real life. But for romance writers and readers, HEAs don’t imply that our main characters will now and forever lead a conflict-free existence. They just say that these people are in love and are going to make a good go at a life together. And, if it’s done right, the author will have convinced us that they’ve got a good shot of making it work.

Frankly, based on my own experience, misery isn’t any more realistic than happiness, despite what people say. When people are faced with disappointments, they usually move on, grow, and find something new. Something good. And it is up to the author to decide where in this process they want to tell the character’s story – on the up- or the down-swing of a character’s life.

Romance novelists choose the up-swing. Other authors sometimes choose the down-swing. And that’s fine. There is room for all kinds of stories in this world.

But we shouldn’t be mocked or derided or considered “unrealistic” because we choose to end our books with the characters happy and in love. It’s such an everyday occurrence. (As are orgasms, FYI, so they aren’t unrealistic, either).

So, next time someone tells you that Romance novels are unrealistic, ask them whether they are happy.

Because surely, surely, only a miserable bastard would be rude enough to expend effort mocking people’s reading tastes. And that’s a sad life.

Guarding Sierra is Live!

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Guarding Sierra is live at all good ebook retailers! I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it. Blake stole the show a bit for me in Station Alpha so it was great to be able to give him his own book. He’s such a charmer. 🙂

Blurb:

Sierra Livingston knows there is someone stalking her. Watching. Waiting. Biding their time. But for what, she doesn’t want to stick around to find out. Thankfully, she knows just who to call.

Blake has never been one to sit still. He’s still recovering from the gunshot he received during his last job with Soldiering On, but he’s not about to let that stop him from protecting a woman in need. Besides, he has to prove to his boss that he’s still capable, or he’ll be forced into his worst nightmare: a desk job.

But neither of them count on their explosive sexual chemistry. Apart, they risk endangering Sierra’s life. But together, there might be an even deeper threat…to their hearts.

Read Chapter 1

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You can pick up your copy below!

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The Ideas Factory

It’s a common thing for non-writers to ask authors (and fanfic writers!) ‘where do you get your ideas?!’

Sometimes, a non-writer will say something along the lines of ‘hey, I have this great idea! You should write it, and we can split the profits!’ What non-writers don’t understand is that ideas are not precious. Writers get them all the time. We call them plotbunnies. The hard part is picking which ones you want to pursue into a full novel, because it is the writing that is the hard part. The daily slog of putting words on the page.

So, I’ve decided to share what it’s like being a writer, with the constant bombardment of ideas for things you might want to write. I kept notes every time I got an idea for a story throughout the day today. (It’s a Saturday, so no work!) This is the result:

BEFORE BREAKFAST

I browsed Facebook before breakfast and I already had two story ideas before 9am.

The first was this article, about a teen who stood in for a girl’s deployed father. There are two ways of writing this story. First, is that you age up the characters and have a similar moment – I think it could still work in a YA novel, maybe. It would obviously be the start of a sweet romance between them. The second is that you have this moment in the backstory of the characters – the girl would develop a serious case of hero worship of this young man that would stick with her throughout her life. What would happen if they then met again as adults, and he realised he was attracted to her, too?

Now, I think either of these stories could work, but they aren’t ideas I would be likely to pursue. I don’t tend to like the heroine of my story pining over the hero; particularly not for a long period of time. (Mutual pining, on the other hand, is a favourite of mine).

The next idea I had was based on this video someone posted, and the comment below.

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This made me consider a heroine that opened up a lingerie shop to help women with bigger breasts. Since there is a lot of great, sexy bras in her shop, people (and maybe the hero) get the wrong idea about her. In reality she’s very shy! I would also consider making her plus sized, since I think that would really work.

AFTER BREAKFAST

I came across this gifset on Tumblr and decided it needed to be a children’s book. A dog and a rat being best friends is the cutest thing you’ll see all day.

LUNCH

I went to lunch with someone who isn’t well – very not well – and then watched them lie to someone they knew about the illness. It made me think that there might be a story in that. Someone comes back to their home town, and won’t tell anyone why they are there, and refuses to get close to anyone. Turns out they have an illness that might very well be fatal. Depressing and angsty, but it could work, particularly if they manage to have the life-saving operation they need in the end. (I always need my happy ending!)

That same person and I were later discussing drunk shopping, as we picked up a package they didn’t remember ordering. There wasn’t an immediate story there, but I couldn’t help but think that you could have some fun with it. Maybe someone accidentally drunk-orders something a little bit naughty to their hot next door neighbour? That could result in some amusing and sexy shenanigans.

I saw the words ‘Royal Bakery’ and that sparked something. Maybe a princess running from an arranged marriage gets a job in a cupcake bakery in small town America, and falls in love with the local handyman/sheriff/mayor/whatever.

After reading this film review, I wondered if I could do a non-religious version of this story (typical though it is). I decided it was an immediate no because I don’t like to write about exploited women.

DINNER

I was on my way to dinner with a friend and I saw three classic cars sitting next to each other in someone’s garage. I immediately thought of a hero that collects classic cars. But I realised that was stereotypical, and it would be more interesting if it was the heroine that was obsessed with old cars. She could be a mechanic, maybe. I’m not sure who her romantic counterpart would be, yet, but I can picture her as a character.

The architecture of Doha (where I live) can be very unusual, so as I was getting closer to the restaurant, I was contemplating rival architects. One would be a traditionalist—probably a conservation architect—and the other would design crazy modern things. I think the modernist would be the man, and the conservation architect would be a woman. They would be competing for a big contract, both with very different ideas about what this new building requires. (The big contract might even be with her father?) Lots of opportunity for snarky competitiveness.

So, I was waiting for my friend at the restaurant and two women walked by pushing strollers. I mused on the scenario of what if they were two recently divorced women that meet in a mother’s group, and end up falling in love with each other? Could be a cute story.

Over dinner, my friend told me a story about an old man in salmon suit at the symphony orchestra she used to see all the time. He would make a great character in something. I can picture him being a secondary character in a fun contemporary romance.

AFTER DINNER

“I just think goodness is more interesting. Evil is constant. You can think of different ways to murder people, but you can do that at age five. But you have to be an adult to consciously, deliberately be good – and that’s complicated.”

I saw this Toni Morrison quote when I got home and it inspired some thoughts. I’d like to explore this idea in a book. Probably a dystopian sci fi novel. I’m not sure exactly how I’d do it, and what sort of world I’d have to build to make that the central theme. It would take more pondering.

And now it’s bed time and who knows how many more ideas I’ll get as I fall asleep. I don’t know if all writers have days like this, but it’s pretty common for me! I hope it gives non-writers more of an idea about what it can be like being a writer.

Guarding Sierra Chapter 2

Two weeks until the release of Guarding Sierra!

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Catch up on Chapter 1 here

Blake strode into the Soldiering On offices at nine o’clock on Monday morning. Well, strode was a bit of a stretch, given the awkward pinch in his shoulder every time he moved. But it was a brisk walk, at the least, even with the awkward angle with which he held his arm.

Technically, he wasn’t due back to work for another three weeks, but he could have happily returned the day after a bullet ripped a hole in his shoulder. He’d been patient long enough and if Duncan, his boss, didn’t like it, then Blake would just camp out at his desk until he was given an assignment. Duncan was known for his stubbornness, but Blake was pretty sure he could win that one.

His shoulder did ache a little. But if he told Duncan that, he’d be sent home to while away the hours staring at the ceiling of his lounge room. He’d go insane if he had to endure another day of that.

He debated just sitting at his desk—well, the desk he usually sat at in the brief periods between assignments—and staking his claim, but realised it would go better in the long run if he confronted Duncan head on.

He pushed open the door to his boss’ office. One of his two bosses, really. But he didn’t deal with Mandy much.

Duncan was already at his desk, bent over a sprawl of papers that he was squinting down at. The window at his back lit him almost as a silhouette, casting a shadow across the papers.

He was a big man, though his current slouch disguised just how big. Tall, broad, and with dark skin that he’d inherited from his African-American father, Duncan looked like a stereotypical military leader. Those that had served under him had said that his command style had been as solid and dependable as his looks. Blake had so far found no reason to disagree with this after working under the man for nearly a year.

Blake tapped on the door. Duncan slowly pulled himself out of whatever he was concentrating on and slid his gaze up. His eyes narrowed when he saw who it was.

“What the hell are you doing here? Get back to bed.”

“Is that an invitation?” Blake teased.

Duncan narrowed his eyes even further. “You’ve still got two weeks left before I want you anywhere near this place. And even then you’ll be assigned desk work, so don’t try it.” He pointed a warning finger at Blake, who summarily ignored the half-assed threat.

Blake stepped into the office and shut the door behind himself. The office was deeply functional, with dark wood and not a personal item to be seen. Thankfully, the effect was somewhat mitigated by the large window spanning an entire wall, high ceilings, and pale walls.

Blake slid himself into the chair opposite Duncan, careful not to just plonk himself down as the now ever-present tiredness crept upon him once again.

“Duncan, please,” he said, leaning forward. He wouldn’t beg, but he wouldn’t leave without an assignment, either. “I can’t go back to that apartment. The two weeks I’ve been trapped there since getting out of the hospital is more time than I’ve collectively spent in that place since I got it. I need something to do.”

Duncan’s eyes softened with pity. He knew more than anyone how much Blake hated to stay still. The ever-present restlessness that plagued him. His need to be outdoors and working his muscles into exhaustion.

“I can’t put you back out in the field. You’d be a danger to yourself and others. And if anything went wrong, it would reflect on Soldiering On. I hate to say it, but we are a fledgeling company. We can’t afford that.”

Blake sighed. He knew he was right, but he also needed something to do. “I don’t care if it’s some fluff work. Something that’s not worth giving to the other guys.” Besides, if he was given a job he suspected he couldn’t handle, then he would back out. He wasn’t going to put anyone else’s life in danger just because he didn’t know how to take a holiday.

You’d take desk work?” Duncan asked disbelievingly.

Blake held up his hand to ward off his boss. “Let’s not go that far,” he muttered.

Duncan considered him, frowning. “Can’t you just take up a hobby?”

“I have a hobby. Rock climbing. I’ve just been… advised not to do that for a while.”

A knowing look settled on Duncan’s face. “And in that you listen to doctor’s orders?”

“Look, rock climbing is hard enough one-handed.” He held up his prosthetic to punctuate his point. “I don’t want to tempt fate by trying to go back to it when I’m not at full strength. But the work here isn’t quite that level of strenuous. So cut me some slack.”

“I’ve cut you plenty of slack.”

“Not on this.”

This is your health we’re talking about.”

Blake ground his jaw. “There has to be something. You don’t have that many employees yet. Trained ones, anyway. And I know business has been picking up a little after we were on the news because of Christine’s thing.” He was referring to the events three weeks ago that had led to him being shot. But they had also led to his friend Paul finding a woman he really cared about, so Blake thought it all evened out. He was happy to get shot for a good cause.

Duncan considered him carefully. “You aren’t going to give up, are you?”

Blake forced a cheerful smile. “Nope. So you may as well concede now.”

“Get in front-leaning rest.”

Blake frowned. “What?”

“You heard me.”

Ah, a test. All right, Blake could deal with that.

He stood and shuffled into the middle of the empty floor space. Then, he lowered himself into the start position for push-ups; one-handed of course. Not to show off, but the prosthetic he was wearing wasn’t really built for comfortable push ups. And, more importantly, because his left shoulder hurt like a motherfucker with the strain already on it.

But he wasn’t going to let Duncan know that.

“Go on, then.”

Blake dropped once. Twice. “How many should I do?” He tried desperately not to pant. He wasn’t as fit as he should be.

“Twenty,” Duncan replied. He stood to watch the proceedings.

All right, then. Blake kept a steady pace. Not as fast as he normally would have done them, but he was sure that if Duncan noticed, he could forgive that slight lack.

By the time he got to fifteen, his arm was shaking. Still, he forced himself on. He’d go hard at the gym tonight to start getting his strength back. Bed rest hadn’t done him any favours.

He made it to twenty, then did five more just to prove he could.

“All right, that’s enough,” Duncan said. Thank God.

Blake slowly got to his feet, still careful with his shoulder. The two men looked at each other as Blake forced himself to breathe in a regular pattern.

Duncan sighed. Blake knew he’d won.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever heard Mandy mention a friend called Sierra?”

The two men settled in their chairs once again.

“Yeah,” Blake replied. He’d always wondered about Sierra, and whether she was as pretty as her friend. Not that he’d ever say that to Mandy, or she’d bust his balls.

“Well, she received some roses last night.”

Blake blinked. “Roses?”

“Yes. This was apparently enough for her to want to hire a bodyguard.”

“She gave no other details?” When Blake had said that he would take any job—even the stupid ones—he’d meant that he’d be willing to take any of the jobs that Soldiering On typically took on. Not vanity projects for rich heiresses. Yeah, he knew that about Sierra, too.

Now he knew for sure that Duncan was giving him a soft job. He hadn’t proven himself to Duncan at all. If Sierra wanted a bodyguard to follow her around as a status symbol, she could get one from anywhere. Why them? They were a serious firm, not catering to celebrities and gossip column fodder.

“She said that she’s had a feeling that she’s being watched. Stalked, even.” Duncan clearly didn’t believe this at all.

Blake, however, wasn’t so sure. He’d had his intuition save him enough times in Iraq that he wasn’t willing to discount anyone else’s.

“How long for?”

“She says about a year.”

Blake scoffed. “And she’s only now hiring protection?”

“Exactly.”

Blake tried not to roll his eyes and failed.

“Look, this is the only job we have on the books. I wasn’t going to take it, but if you want it, it’s yours. It shouldn’t prove too dangerous, provided the threat is as real as I suspect. Which is, not at all.”

Blake looked into Duncan’s hard eyes and knew that this was his one shot at getting back out into the field anytime soon. He thought back to his empty, silent apartment.

There really wasn’t much of a choice.

“I’ll do it,” he muttered. But he didn’t have to be happy about it.

“Good. Don’t screw this up. You’re still recovering, and you like getting yourself into trouble at every opportunity, so be careful. Sierra is paying well for our services. She refused to take a friend’s discount from Mandy. If nothing else, it will be good publicity for us. So dress smart in case there are any photographers around, and throw our name around when you can. Maybe something good can come of this shit show.”

Blake sighed. Grabbing the folder that Duncan handed him from the top of the stack on the desk, Blake flicked it open. A picture of a joyous woman looked out at him, her arm around Mandy. Both women looked to be in the middle of a fit of laughter when they snapped the selfie together, heads pressed closed and noses scrunched up in amusement.

Mandy had obviously chosen the photo for the file. He liked that better than downloading it from social media as they often did. It was far more personal.

Sierra was a redhead. That, he hadn’t been expecting. In the photograph, her hair had been loose and flowing past her shoulders. He realised that Mandy, too, had her hair down, and wondered if he had even seen her like that before. He didn’t think so.

“She’s cute,” he murmured. Duncan gave him a severe look. “I know!” Blake replied, without having to be told. Hands off. He always was. He knew that the consequence would be an immediate firing if he wasn’t. Didn’t mean he couldn’t look, though.

“You can start as soon as you leave this office. Mandy said that she took the morning off work, which concerned her. Apparently Sierra is a bit of a workaholic. So you can meet her at her apartment. The address is in the file.”

Blake glanced at the address and whistled. Classy neighbourhood.

“Thanks, Duncan.” He stood, already mentally planning ahead now that he had a new mission.

He was halfway to the door when Duncan’s voice stopped him.

“And Blake?” He spun around, eyes settling on his boss’ stern features. “Like I said, don’t screw this up.”

He swallowed around the lump in his throat. His shoulder ached with the reminder that he wasn’t even close to his best, but Blake nodded with all the confidence he could muster.

He needed this. He wouldn’t screw it up. Couldn’t.

In a small way, his life—and his sanity—depended on it.

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Write First, Make It Good Later

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Lately, I have heard a number of people saying that they are trying to get started on their book. They have done all the research, attended workshops, read writing books and how-tos, and basically just focused on their craft.

But, now, they are stuck. They can’t actually write.

Obviously, the goal here is to get those words down on the page. So what’s going wrong?

The problem is that they are trying to write well.

What do I mean? Well, if you are anything like me, your brain is usually working a few sentences or scenes ahead from what you are actually writing. So, while I am writing sentence one, my brain is already on sentence four. This works out well, because it means that as long as I stay focused, I write quickly. (Whether I do always stay focused is an issue for another time…)

But, if I am writing sentence one, and I don’t like it, I move on. I just keep writing. Maybe sometimes I’ll make a note to change it later, but usually I assume that Future Aislinn will have the same issue with the line that Present Aislinn does. (Aka it’s Future Aislinn’s problem).

If I don’t do this, if I get caught up in crafting a perfect sentence/scene/character/whatever, then my brain screeches to a halt. It will no longer be on sentence four, or scene four. It will be at sentence one. And that will then just slow everything to a stop.

If I am too concerned with creating a perfect sentence or perfect scene, I never get anything done. Because nothing is perfect the first time out. So if you go over and over something a million times on the first try, you lose all your momentum and just get stuck.

My motto for this situation is this: give yourself permission to be crap.

Yes, that scene may not be all it could be on the first try, but that’s fine. Until you see how it fits into the story as a whole, you probably won’t see its full potential anyway.

Maybe that piece of dialogue doesn’t convey all the nuance you want it to. But it can be fixed later.

Maybe the character’s arc is not as strong as you want it to be; their Goal/Motivation/Conflict is not up to scratch, or the mask vs essence is not where you want it to be. Whatever writing theory you are using at the time, just know this: you don’t have to get it right the first time.

Seriously, editing is a giant pain in the arse, but it is rather wonderful once you’ve turned your first draft into a good book.

Once you get those words on the page, then you can make them good. Don’t expect perfection on the first try.

And the good news is, that doing this will be your practice. The more you write and edit, the more your first tries are going to be good, and the less you’ll have to edit in your later manuscripts. But you won’t improve until you write, and write a lot.

So, remember two things: getting the words down on the page is the goal, and give yourself permission to be crap.