Guns. Knives. Books.


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An E-Book Cover Designer Doing It Right

Posted on March 2, 2015 at 6:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Paper and Sage Design Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Paper & Sage, which I consider to be the best e-book cover designing service I've encountered. I liked it so much that I put down my own money to get a cover created. I can't reveal the cover just quite yet (it's for a secret project), but you can take my word that the final product was up to snuff. The cover wouldn't look out of place next to anything you'd find in a bookstore.

When I went hunting for e-book cover designers, I found most sites fall into one of two categories. Either they offered inexpensive pre-made covers that looked just as cheap, or they offered a full service designer way out of my regular-person-living-in-the-real-world budget.

Paper & Sage is a little different. You choose from pre-made covers at a reasonable price, then hand the reins over to a designer who will make tweaks according to your specifications (colors, verbiage, fonts). If you need several big changes, Paper & Sage offers a custom package for a higher price.

This arrangement means you can get the benefits of a one-on-one designer experience at the cost of a pre-made cover service. Even better, once a cover is sold, it won't be offered again.

Paper & Sage didn't prod me to write this review. I did it on my own because the people doing things right deserve to be recognized. And Paper & Sage is definitely worth your dollars.

Click here to visit Paper & Sage.

On Writing Guns - How Loud is a Silencer?

Posted on February 24, 2015 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Building on this post debunking pillows used as silencers, here's a handy chart detailing the noise levels of silenced (aka "suppressed") firearms. This is excerpted from an infographic from Silencerco.

The takeaway: silencers/suppressors aren't as convenient as fiction would like to think. Get creative in those stealthy scenes. What other ways are there to be silent but deadly? (er, wait...)

If you're having a hard time reading that chart, here's the breakdown (in decibels).


  • Library whisper - 30 db
  • Emergency vehicle siren - 115 db
  • Silenced .22 rifle - 116 db
  • Thunder - 120 db
  • Silenced 9mm pistol - 125 db
  • Dish breaking - 129 db
  • Jackhammer - 130 db
  • Silenced .223 rifle - 134 db
  • Silenced 12 gauge shotgun - 137 db
  • Jet taking off - 150 db
  • Non-silenced 12 gauge shotgun - 160 db
  • Non-silenced .223 rifle - 165 db

Pre-order my book, Weapons for Writers, here from Amazon

On Writing Knives - What are Those Wavy Things on the Blade?

Posted on February 22, 2015 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

When researching knives for a story, you may come across wavy patterns on the blade that look like this:

Without getting too technical, those waves are created by layering the steel used to make the blade. The result is called "damascus" steel. A wave pattern is just one of the shapes found in damascus steel. The smith can create any number of wacky designs, from hearts, stars and horseshoes to clovers and blue moons. Er, wait, that's the jingle for Lucky Charms. But the point is still the same.

Some say damascus steel is stronger or longer lasting than "regular" steel. I'd say there are too many variables to make that judgement call. It's strictly a design element that looks cool and adds a nice touch to a knife. Here's an example from one of my own knives.

In this case, the damascus steel has a "raindrop" pattern instead of wavy lines like in the example above. It's still damascus either way.

When writing, the only time I imagine you'd reference damascus is to look in-the-know about knives, which is fine by me. Because damascus is pricey and most often used for aesthetics, I wouldn't depict it on knives designed for hard use.

Pre-order my book, Weapons for Writers: A Practical Reference for Writing Firearms and Knives in Fiction, from Amazon.

On Writing Guns - How a 1911 Pistol Works

Posted on February 21, 2015 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Chances are good that if your stories feature a lot of pistol play, one of those handguns is a .45 caliber Colt 1911. This type of handgun's been around for more than 100 years, and is just as popular today as back then. You'll instantly recognize it from countless TV shows, movies and references in books. Usually, when writers reference a ".45," they mean it's a .45 caliber 1911. Unless it's a western, in which case they'd likely be talking about the iconic Colt Single Action Army revolver. But that's for another post.

The website Animagraffs features super cool GIFs of how a 1911 works. Here's the main one. The rest, showing close-ups of certain mechanics, are here. Be sure to check them out. The person behind this GIF will even make one for you, from speakers to spiders (for a price, of course).

The takeaway for writing fiction might not be apparent just by looking at this GIF. But look a little closer, and you'll see that the slide on top is back and the barrel is exposed once the ammunition runs out. The hammer is automatically cocked as the slide moves back between shots (it resets into a forward position in the animation, but that'd have to be done manually). You can also see not one but two safeties: the thumb safety and the grip safety. Both would need to be disengaged before firing. Details like that can add a nice touch to a passage featuring a 1911. 

* Thanks to crime writer Court Merrigan for the tip about this GIF. Check out his books on Amazon.

What a Handgun Says About the Character Using It

Posted on February 20, 2015 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (0)

This guest post comes from Travis Pike. He's a Marine veteran, a firearm instructor and a writer. The post that follows pokes a little fun at stereotypes in the gun world, but I think his satire can apply to assigning handguns to characters, too. Have fun with it!


1. The Revolver


You’re a hipster.


By this point in time the old revolver guys are out of their prime, hardly gun slingers anymore. These days those men and ladies packing revolvers do it because of a sense of nostalgia and the cool factor associated with the sixgun. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s hard to beat the cool factor of a Smith & Wesson 686. Who really needs more than six rounds? Revolvers don’t jam, and you don’t even really have to know what timing is. Plus, there are polymer revolvers that are totally retro new school.


2. The Steel Frame Semi-Automatics (the Beretta 92 and Smith & Wesson 3rd Generation pistols)




You’re the new old school.

Sure, revolvers are stereotypically for the old school guys, but that ship has sailed. These days the old school guys grew up with big, heavy, steel frame semi-automatics. The beat cop 30 years ago wasn’t carrying the Smith & Wesson Model 10 or the Colt Python revolvers, no sir. You carried your boat anchor with pride, always knowing if you ran out of ammo you could beat someone with it. You were part of the wondernine generation and still don't understand why tupperware is part of a gun.


3. The 1911


You’re a cultist.


Owners of 1911s used to fall into a few different groups, from the old school military guys, to those with modern tastes in a classic weapon. All these groups have merged to build the 1911 supercult. As a 1911 user you believe there is no better gun, and gun design pretty much quit after John Browning delivered this weapon from heaven. You don’t need more than eight rounds, you don’t need no stinkin’ polymer, and you sure as hell don’t mind spending a few grand on a premium 100-year-old design. Also, who cares if your gun is mag picky.


These 1911 guys and gals spend time to perfect their own skills to fill the inadequacies of the century-old design. A 1911 user isn’t just a 1911 owner. They are a complete cult, dedicated to the one true gun.


4. Glock


You drive a Honda Civic with a wing.


Everyone says get a Glock, so you did. It works every time you pull its plastic trigger. You don’t care if the trigger is sub standard, the grip is like a 2x4 piece of lumber, and the gun is about as attractive as the Elephant Man. You spend a little and replace the trigger, then a little bit more so you can replace the sights. After that you can get the grip stippled, and then maybe all titanium internals. You can keep spending money until your Civic, err, Glock, is a real gun.


Glock guys tend to understand their weapon is utilitarian, but can’t seem to accept it’s good enough as is and try to spend money to fill their ‘perceived’ problems with it.


5. H&K or SIGs


You think you can buy shooting skills.


As you lovingly finished your newest Soldier of Fortune magazine, you hold your SIG P226 in your hand and think of how it could have killed Osama. When you pick your H&K you’re not just picking up a gun, you're picking up a piece of art. With these guns you don’t need time at the range. In fact, they pretty much shoot themselves for you. The handcrafted German/Swiss engineering has resulted in a level of perfection no one but Zeus himself has touched, and you have it in your hands. Customer support means little to you, as does your children’s college funds. Who needs college when you have a SIG X5?