Monday, November 10, 2014

Teach Me Self-defense


Bodyguards are one of the most beloved heroes in the romantic suspense arsenal. What could be sexier than a man with the muscle and skill to keep you safe, also keeping you in his bed and his heart? But with my latest release, Teach Me, I chose to go a slightly different route. My hero, Conlan James, is a former soldier who now runs a security company with his best friend. They also spend a lot of time volunteering to help abused women, a situation both have past experience with. Conlan is an eyewitness to Jess Kingston’s confrontation with her ex-boyfriend, but instead of taking on the job of her protection, he takes a different tack: he offers to teach her to defend herself.

Why would I go this route? I mean, we love bodyguards for very good reasons; why not just make Conlan a bodyguard? (Aside from the fact that Conlan chose his job, not me, of course!) Because the story really evolved from my own experience teaching women to protect themselves. For the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to first assist and then run women’s self-defense courses for a local martial arts program I’ve volunteered with. Knowing how to teach the things a woman would need to know, but also having learned the lessons myself, gave this story the realism and depth I truly wanted for my first full-fledged romantic suspense novel.

One of the things I learned through the course of my martial arts training was not just how to defend myself, but how to avoid situations that could lead to danger. My heroine, Jess, knows none of those things prior to her ex’s initial attack, but the knowledge allowed me to put her in places that could further the story and the suspense. (I know, I’m so mean!) I also knew from my lessons that many things we can do to protect ourselves are common sense, such as the buddy system. Nothing is a surefire “fix,” but every little thing we can do helps ensure our safety. Jess is pretty smart, even pre-training, so showing her using her brain, thinking through situations and deciding what she needs to do to take care of herself (rather than being the poor-pitiful-me heroine who must continuously be rescued) was essential to her character. My knowledge helped me portray her the way she needed to be portrayed.

Practical self-defense isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Women on the whole tend to be smaller and less strong than an attacker, so it’s not like throwing a punch is the magic move that will enable you to walk away. (Maybe, but more likely not.) The techniques Conlan teaches Jess are ones I’ve used myself, things I’ve learned as a five-foot-one female fighting much bigger men. It was gratifying knowing that not only could I provide an entertaining—and hot, don’t forget hot!—story for women to read, but that I could provide some information that, someday, might help one of my readers in a bad situation.

My practice in self-defense also helped me write a more realistic story. Writing about getting punched in the face and actually feeling it (and making the reader feel it) are two different things. I’ve gotten clocked more than once in practice, let me tell you! The resulting starburst of pain is different depending on where that impact connects with your body. The way your body reacts to seeing that punch coming, the way you freeze, panic, can’t think—those are things that really happen. In fact, fighters train for years to get rid of those normal responses, called Body-Alarm Reaction (BAR), to reduce the panic and teach themselves to react automatically in a different, much more effective way. This is also why cops practice drawing their guns and soldiers drill in facilities set up to mimic the real world, so that when the time comes, their bodies and minds already know what to do. That’s also why Jess’s lessons did not keep her perfectly safe in the end, because these techniques can’t truly be learned in one day or one lesson; they must be practiced again and again over time until your reaction becomes automatic.

So many of the things we see on television or read in books could happen, might happen, but probably wouldn’t happen in real life the way they are portrayed on the screen or page. With Teach Me, I got to tell an exciting, sensual story whose lessons and fight scenes are true to the real world, not just fiction. And maybe, in a way, the story has given way to a new type of hero, one who doesn’t just protect the heroine but who also teaches her to help protect herself.

TEACH ME

A woman determined to heal…

Shy researcher Jess Kingston spent the last eight weeks recovering from her ex-boyfriend’s brutal attack. Body healed, she’s ready to put her life back together—except her ex isn’t ready to let go. She won’t cower in a corner while Brit tortures her, but she’s powerless to fight back.

A man determined to resist…

Ex-military security specialist Conlan James avoids commitment like the plague. His job, his Harley, and the occasional one-night stand are all he needs, until the day he rescues Jess from a tense situation and realizes he can’t get her off his mind. He can teach her to protect herself, but protecting his heart is another matter.

A madman determined to win…

As the deadly game of cat-and-mouse with Brit heats up, so does the hunger between Con and Jess. Safety might be found in numbers, but in bed, all bets are off—and the wrong move could lead to heartbreak. Or death.


Author Bio 

Ella grew up in the Deep South, where books provided adventures, friends, and her first taste of romance. Now she writes her own romantic adventures, with plenty of hot alpha men and the women who love and challenge them. With a day job, a husband, two active teenagers, and two not so active cats, Ella is always busy, but getting the voices in her head down on paper is a top priority. Connect with Ella at www.ellasheridanauthor.com .

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