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On Tang and Choosing a Knife for a Character

Posted on October 23, 2014 at 7:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Ah, the crisp, refreshing zing of a cold glass of Tang. Is there anything better than that in the morning? Can’t kick things off without an astronomical dose of orange-ish vitamin C.


Wait, we’re talking about knives? In that case, stop drinking Tang (uppercase T) and start thinking tang (lowercase t).


A knife’s tang is an important feature to consider whenever assigning a character a hard-use blade. By that I mean the kind of knife slated for a workout slashing and slicing its way through a story.

This is important since these oft-appearing knives can become a signature piece of a character’s ensemble. Who’s Rambo without that Jimmy Lile custom knife? Would Michael Myers (right, image via Wikipedia) carry anything other than a butcher knife in the Halloween movies? Would Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight be as creepy without that knife fetish?


Before choosing a knife for your character on looks or “cool factor” alone, first consider the tang.

The tang is the part of the blade that runs down into the handle to offset pressure during use. The longer the tang, the more durable the knife. When the tang runs all the way down the handle, it’s referred to as a “full tang.” If the tang is short or reduced, it’s referred to as a “partial tang,” “half tang,” “rat-tail tang” or “push tang.”


Here’s what I mean.


Full tang knives by far can take the most beating. When you’re researching a specific knife model for a character, keep an eye out for “full tang,” “long tang” or something close to that. In all cases, full tang knives are “fixed blade,” meaning the blade doesn’t move as it would with a folding knife.


Why does this even matter? Because partial tang and folding knives (i.e. switchblades/automatic knives, pocketknives, assisted opening knives, etc.) can’t hold up to extreme conditions in the way fixed blade, full-tang knives can. In my book, Weapons for Writers: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction, I detail a true story from crime writer Les Edgerton about a switchblade used in a violent encounter. A woman used the switchblade to stab another person. The blade, because it didn’t have a tang, bent and would not go back into the handle. The knife failed.


That doesn’t lend itself well to the rigors of fiction, where knives can be put through any number of hard-use scenarios. In those cases, a fixed blade, full-tang knife is the way to go.


Here are a few go-to models and types I think could be used in almost any story.





What kinds of knives are you giving to your characters?

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7 Reasons Why I Submitted to Kindle Scout

Posted on October 22, 2014 at 6:10 PM Comments comments (0)

The Digital Reader was kind enough to host a guest blog post from me on why I choose to submit my crime novel, The Invisible Hand, to the Kindle Scout program. Writer folks, this is one you'll want to check out. Let my manuscript be your guinea pig.

Click here to go to The Digital Reader.

Also, here's the cover for the novel. Figured I should toss that up while I'm at it. Yeah, that's a guy surfing on a handgun cartridge. Deal with it.

The Kindle Scout Adventure Continues

Posted on October 22, 2014 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Looks like this grand Kindle Scout experiment is attracting a little bit of attention. The Digital Reader picked up my post from yesterday and did a write up here. Check it out for some perspectives on this adventure from its editor, Nate Hoffelder.

Coming Soon: Kindle Scout Campaign for My Crime Novel

Posted on October 21, 2014 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (4)

I submitted my latest crime novel, The Invisible Hand, to the Kindle Scout program yesterday. Kindle Scout, a new program from Amazon, is only a week old, and seemed like a good option considering everything else going on at home (i.e. prepping for our first kid to arrive later this year - holy crap, I still can't believe that's happening). Well, what do you know, Amazon got back to me in less than 24 hours. My campaign is to start on Oct. 28 and run for 30 days.

For those not in the know, Kindle Scout is Amazon's dual attempt at crowdsourcing and putting some reins on the whirlpool that is KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). A writer submits a completed manuscript, cover and description. The Kindle Scout people review the content, then decide if it's accepted into the program. If it is, the book gets a campaign page where "scouts" (aka readers) can nominate the title over a 30-day time period. Books with the most nominations, as well as potential in the eyes of the Kindle Scout team, will go on to get published by something called Kindle Press. There's a legit advance and five-year publishing contract attached to that.

Writers can see the specifics of how this works here, but I won't bore anyone with that. I wanted to take a swing at Kindle Scout because a) being picked up by Kindle Press offers a good chance of making bank on sales, since Amazon's marketing knows how to target and sell e-books within its ecosystem; and b) it's a 45-day turnaround, which is much faster than slogging through the submission process I just don't have time for right now.

Kindle Scout is still too new to draw any hard conclusions from it, but that's part of the appeal for me as a writer. Remember when KDP Select debuted? The ones first to the plate with their freebies had the most success. Things died down once everyone else jumped on board. So there's some benefit to being first with any new Amazon program. I'm placing my trust in Amazon's supernatural ability to sell e-books with its marketing should my novel be picked up.

And speaking of that novel, here's what my Kindle Scout campaign page looks like. It's only a preview, but I figured this is new enough that some writers might be curious. I'll post the live link for voting on Oct. 28.

Do Knives Have Safeties?

Posted on October 18, 2014 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

TLDR: Yes, some knives actually have safeties.

Characters switching gun safeties on and off in fiction, usually for handguns, is an easy pitfall for some writers. Not all pistols and revolvers have safeties or even hammers.


But what about knives? They don’t have safeties, right? As it turns out, some do.


Some switchblades (aka automatic knives) and assisted opening knives (similar to switchblades, but much more legal) have a small tab or screw that functions as a safety. When the knife is closed, the tab can be slipped in front of the blade, preventing it from opening.


When writing in a generic switchblade or assisted opening knife, you could ratchet up the tension by having the character switch the safety off before deploying the blade for a critical moment. You might blow some readers’ minds, but you’ll also look pretty sharp (pun definitely intended).


If you’re looking for a specific model, the Kershaw Leek (pictured above) is a popular assisted opener with a safety. Here’s a YouTube demonstration. The disembodied hand works the safety at the 15-second mark.

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