Boxing and Romance

Honored by her college for literary excellence, author Carol Malone has played make-believe all her life and started writing romantic tales in high school. Raised with four older brothers, sports was the center of her family’s life. To this day, she still bleeds Dodger Blue. Carol writes pulse-pounding, noir sports stories with a passionate twist, inviting fans to jump in a front row seat and cheer for the underdog.


Can a romance writer make it in the harboiled world of fight fiction?


Carol A. Malone

I wrote Fight Card Romance: Ladies Night on a dare.

A couple of years ago, my friend, Paul Bishop, along with his good friend, Mel Odom, created the Fight Card series – fast action boxing tales inspired by the fight pulps of the ‘40s and ‘50s.  Being part of a monthly writers group mentored by Paul, I was familiar with these novels and intrigued by their punchy style.  When Paul offered my husband, Tim, the opportunity to write a Fight Card novella, I saw only one major problem – Tim, raised with four sisters, can’t abide sports. He never played sports of any kind, nor does he like to sit and watch sports on TV He considers it wasting time.

On the other hand, I was raised with four older brothers.  When I wasn’t blowing up a Lionel train set with my brother’s dart-shooting-tank-truck, I was outside shooting arrows into a bale of hay, riding my grandmother’s horse, or zipping down sloping hills on my brothers’ sled like my hair was on fire. I learned how to score a baseball game well before learning my ABC’s.

Sports was a way of life with four brothers – ice skating, skiing, hockey, water skiing, basketball, football, bowling, and baseball. Weekends in my family were spend watching Friday Night Fights with my dad, attending my brother’s baseball games on Saturday afternoons, and bowling with the whole family on Saturday evenings. I ran track, played tennis, and was on my college’s volleyball team. I am a die-hard Dodger devotee – and, like Tommy Lasorda, if I get cut, I bleed Dodger Blue. My dream was to be a batgirl – not one who chased after Adam West, but the kind who takes care of the bats for all those hunky ballplayers.

I read all the previous Fight Card novels and loved them.  If Tim wasn’t going to take a crack at a Fight Card story, then I wanted to get in the ring. The series to that point was essentially guy sports stories written for tough-minded, fight-loving male fans, so I was a little tenuous, wondering if I would be accepted into the brotherhood.

I was determined to approach Paul about an assignment, but figured the best thing to do would be to start writing a Fight Card story and surprise him at our next writers group meeting.  I was already writing romance with some form of suspense and action – I was hoping it wouldn’t be much different.

So, without Paul’s knowledge, I started to write Ladies Night in March, 2012, all the while working on other romantic manuscripts. For boxing research, I watched fights from the 50’s on YouTube, typing the descriptions of the punches into my computer while announcers describe the action. I rounded out the research with old LA city maps, period photos, boxing statistics, and scads of boxing technique videos.

With trepidation, I brought the first chapters of Ladies Night to the once a month writers group and was overwhelmed with the excited acceptance. Paul encouraged me to continue.  He’d had a notion in his head to expand the Fight Card brand – which he’d already done by adding in a series of Fight Card MMA novels – to include Fight Card Romance novels, and Ladies Night looked like it might fill the niche.

Working with my book coach Beth Barany ( on my previous romantic fiction, I put aside the prosaic stuff and concentrated on my Fight Card book. Beth kept reviewing the manuscript, teaching me invaluable skills to make the process run smoothly.

With his real world background in police interrogation, Paul knows how to make criminals sweat. I often felt the cold-cop experience of Paul’s suspect-breaking techniques when I wrote a couple of chapters he thought were a crime. Yet, under his tutelage, I experienced phenomenal growth. I went from writing very bad romance to creating a well-turned sports-romance novel. Paul is confident, but time will tell if it will be accepted by the die-hard fans of the great Fight Card stories.

I couldn’t have written Ladies Night without Paul and Beth’s expert influence and their uncompromising declarations, from time to time, that some of my writing did indeed – suck. But they also offered praise and reassurance, and forced me to keep at it until I got it right.  Just like a heavyweight champion needs the right trainer and the right cornermen, so too does a writer.

Find out more about Fight Card Romance and other Fight Card brands here:


And in This Corner…

From his secret lair in the wilds of Bethlehem, Georgia, Bobby Nash, the 2013 Pulp Ark Award Winner for Best Author, writes a little bit of everything, including novels, comic books, short prose, novellas, graphic novels, screenplays, media tie-ins, and even a little pulp fiction just for good measure. And he sleeps at least once a week, whether he needs it or not.  Between deadlines, Bobby is a part-time extra in movies and television. He is also the co-host of the Earth Station One podcast.  Barefoot Bones is Bobby’s first Fight Card Book. He hopes it won’t be his last.


On the writing of Fight Card: Barefoot Bones …

 Fight Card - Barefoot Bones cover

Bobby Nash

At first I was afraid.

No, seriously. When Paul Bishop first approached me about writing a Fight Card book I was a wee bit intimidated. My relationship with sports is a strange one. I am not generally a big fan of sporting events and hardly, if ever, watch them on TV. Oddly enough, I love sports-themed movies. Yeah. I know. It’s weird. Aside from a stock car racing idea I have, which I still plan to get to one of these days, the idea of writing sports fiction had not occurred to me.

I have a cursory knowledge of boxing at best. Meaning, I’ve seen the Rocky movies, Raging Bull, a few episodes of TV shows that had a boxing episode, and one or two pay-per-views I watched with some buddies. I did some research, of course, so hopefully my fight knowledge is sound.

So, with that said, when I agreed to write a Fight Card story, I approached it as a character piece about a boxer. Knowing the character is the most important thing for me and when the plot started to gel together in my mind, it was James Mason, the boy the bullies called Barefoot Bones who sold me on the idea of telling this story. I’m not sure where the name came from. As I was plotting out the ideas for this story, it was the week between Christmas and New Years Day. On one of the many drives to family events, it just popped into my head and it fit.

When working on stories, especially in a series or an anthology, I look for a different kind of story to tell. Setting Bones in the south and learning to fight as a way to survive excited me. At the same time I also had this image of him fighting in Korea, which is how his story came to start and stop there. I tried to avoid M*A*S*H antics, but I have to admit, it was hard not to envision that compound when writing about the compound in this story.

For those who know my work, I spend a good deal of time writing period pulp stories so I’ve gotten used to spending time in the past. Although Barefoot Bones isn’t exactly pulp, it does share a few of the same ideals as a good pulp yarn. I tried to keep things moving, only to slow up when necessary, much like Bones’ life.

The above ramblings is very much what it’s like for me plotting a story. The ideas tumble out in waves and rarely, if ever, in sequential order. That would just be too easy, wouldn’t it?

I’d like to thank Paul and Mel for inviting me to play in the Fight Card sandbox and David Foster for the amazing cover. This was a lot of fun. Who knows, maybe we’ll do this again soon.

Find out more about the Fight Card series here:


What Is a Fight Card Romance?

Honored by her college for literary excellence, author Carol Malone has played make-believe all her life and started writing romantic tales in high school. Raised with four older brothers, sports was the center of her family’s life. To this day, she still bleeds Dodger Blue. Carol writes pulse-pounding, noir sports stories with a passionate twist, inviting fans to jump in a front row seat and cheer for the underdog.


In the world of new pulp writing, this question is turning heads …

Ladies Night

Carol Malone


Before I can tell you about Fight Card Romance, I need to explain a little about the traditional Fight Card.

In 2012, a dear friend of mine, mentor and author Paul Bishop, and his pal, Mel Odom, created Fight Card – a series of 25,000 word novellas inspired by the pulse-pounding fight pulps so popular from the ‘30s to the ‘50s.  In the 1920s, boxing as a sport began coming into its own – attracting the minorities, the Irish, the Italians, the Jews, and later the Blacks and Latin boxers – all trying to prove their metal in the toughest arena of all –the boxing ring, man-to-man.  Fictional boxing stories filled the pulps of the era with two-fisted action devoured by a rapt public. The Fight Card series was a return to this style of writing, bringing new fight stories to modern readers.

Paul and Mel established a list of writers guidelines for the Fight Card series.   Originally, all the stories were to be set in the 1950’s – though this was quickly waived to include other decades.  The stories could be set anywhere in the world (and have – from the Australian Outback, to South Africa and Ireland), and a PG-13 level was established for language, violence and sex.

The main character in the stories did not have to be a professional fighter – they could be a reporters, sailors, fight manager, soldiers, or – in the case of my novel, Ladies Night – the boxer’s lady-love. However, the biggest rule was the stories must have boxing at its heart and resolution – usually the big fight conclusion. This didn’t mean ever story had to be about the championship of the world.  The characters don’t have to be contenders, and most aren’t, but all of them are facing extremely high personal stakes, if not certain destruction, if they don’t man-up.

The boxer in each story was to have a connection to St. Vincent’s Asylum for Boys, an orphanage in Chicago. Under the big-hearted, tough-love, dished out generously by the much beloved Fighting Priest, Father Tim – also known as Tornado Tim Brophy, a Golden Gloves champion himself as a youth – each boy under his care grows up believing he’s something special. Although cursed by some nuns and loved by others, the good sisters of the orphanage pray for Father Tim who manages to keep his ruffians in check by teaching them the sweet science of boxing. Boys who come to him with no food in their bellies, no love in their hearts, and no hope for a future, find Father Tim filling up those holes.

Each story is written to be e-published via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform under the shared pseudonym of Jack Tunney for cohesiveness. I wrote Ladies Night under the name of Jill Tunney.  Paperback editions follow on the heels of the e-books, this time under the individual author’s own name.

My husband Tim and I are part of a monthly writer’s group mentored by Paul.  When he asked my husband, Tim – an end-of-the-world sci-fi writer – if he wanted to take a shot at writing a Fight Card story, Tim declined. He’s not into sports – but I am. Raised with four older brothers, sports was an obsession. When I was in high school, I started reading and writing romance, and have since then written numerous manuscripts. So, I decided to take a dare and without Paul’s knowledge began pecking out my own Fight Card tale. I didn’t start out to necessarily write a romance, but the main characters dictated their story, I simply jotted it down. A year later, voilà – Ladies Night.

In Ladies Night, Jimmy Doherty is dropped at Father’s Tim’s doorstep, all alone in the world after tragedy takes his pa in WWII, his ma to her grief, and his only other living relative, Aunt Alice, to heart failure. Angry with God, furious with his own grief and fear of abandonment, what Jimmy craves most is a family of his own. Through an uncanny ability to recognize boxing talent, Father Tim knows Jimmy’s heart beats boxing, and gives him a shot at being a contender. Since all orphans must leave the orphanage at the age of eighteen, Father Tim wisely puts Jimmy on a train to L.A. to box for an old friend.

Jimmy meets Pops Dominic, his new manager and trainer – and Pops’ beautiful daughter, Lindy, who’s sweeter than apple pie. Jimmy can’t resist Lindy’s charms. She offers him acceptance, fierce loyalty, and love. Sneaking off to marrying Lindy raises Pops’ blood pressure, but having Lindy in his corner gives Jimmy what he hasn’t had in his life for nine years – a family.

When Lindy is arrested for murdering a boxer with ties to a gangster, Jimmy is forced to join forces with the arresting detective – who would like to do much more with Lindy than put her in handcuffs – in a desperate search for the real killer. Ladies Night – boxing, suspense and romance – proves love can be murder – in and out of the ring.

When Paul found out what I was doing, he couldn’t have been more supportive.  He had already created the Fight Card spin-off series, Fight Card MMA, and had a crazy notion to widen Fight Card’s readership even further with a Fight Card Romance brand.  Ladies Night became the flagship title for Fight Card Romance, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Find out more about Fight Card Romance and other Fight Card brands here:

Fighting Irish vs Irish Writer

Gerard Brennan is the author of the novels, Wee Rockets and Fireproof, the novella, The Point, co-editor of Requiems for the Departed, a collection of crime fiction based on Irish myths, and the short story collections, Possession, Obsession and a Decompression Engine and Other Stories, and Nothing But Time. He lives in Dundrum, Northern Ireland.


The author of Fight Card MMA: Welcome To The Octagon, gives us his take on writers and fighters …


 Gerard Brennan

So, the Irish – even us Northerners, whatever the religious flavour – are often the subject of stereotypes. Is that fair? Frankly, I don’t give a feck. Maybe that’s because I’m too busy drinking, fighting and writing.

Am I joking?

Nah, just exaggerating a little. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story, right? That’s a bit of an Irish tradition too.

I write. That’s a fact. You can find my stuff online or on bookshelves in some very select places. And yes, I do enjoy my booze, but I’m considered a light drinker in many circles. I don’t drink much for an Irish guy sums it up. My fighting is done in the form of sparring at a small local boxing club. I’m no pro, obviously. I’m don’t even consider myself good enough to be an amateur boxer. But I hold my own at our wee club and I know what it feels like to take a punch. Not bad for a guy in his thirties.

Actually, I learned what it was like to take a punch a long time ago. I wasn’t a troublemaker (honest), but I must have grown up with a face that people liked to punch. In school, playgrounds, and later in pubs, I’ve been in my unfair share of scuffles. For a short time in my teens, I lifted weights and walked with my chest puffed out, but I was always vaguely aware I might not have been properly equipped for a street fight, should I find myself in another one. I got into martial arts in my twenties and eventually became an instructor. Even opened my own kung fu club for a short time.

I met lots of great people with interesting stories and backgrounds while I studied and taught kung fu. Also met some not-so-great people who had ideas above their station, but let’s keep this civil. Those years gave me a great insight into fight psychology. Rich material for a writer.

There are many reasons to learn a martial art – self defence being at the core – but for some it’s simply about the urge to fight and finding an appropriate outlet that is legally and socially acceptable.

During my time as a martial artist, I also became a bullshit artist, or in politer terms, a writer. I hang those labels on myself with a lot more confidence now than I did in my twenties. Back then I would tell you, I do a bit of kung fu and/or I like to write. The titles, martial artist and writer, in my opinion, had to be earned. Now, either I’m more laidback about most things or I believe I’ve done my time, but these titles are just words to me now. And, words have become my stock and trade. I can call myself a writer because I can prove that I can write.

Fighting is different.

If you can fight, there’s no point telling me about it. Especially not on internet forums. Even if somebody calls you out, what’s going to happen, really? Premeditated assault? Probably not a good idea. But there are ways to prove yourself, if that’s your thing. Should you go to a bar and pick on some guy? NO! Don’t even think that, you looper. Just keep your prowess to yourself, and feel safe in the knowledge you can rely on it if you ever have to.

Or compete.

Shut up and fight. But don’t do something stupid that’ll get you arrested. Simple, right?

The only real way for a fighter to test their mettle these days is through combat competition. And I have nothing but respect for any man or woman who steps into a ring, a cage or an octagon. Fighters, of any style, are cool in my book.

What’s my point? I’m a writer, not a fighter, I guess. And I’ve no desire to be a fighter. At some point in my life, before I turn forty, I might step into a ring just for the experience. It’ll be some sort of white collar boxing event, I’d imagine, but I’ll train for it like I’m stepping up to a pro. I’ll go in prepared to crack some ribs or get my bell rung by an unseen right hook, then I’ll recover, laugh about it, write about it, daydream about it, and go back to light sparring at the club until I’m too old to raise my gloves. If that takes the form of boxing, Muay Thai or MMA, so be it. But I’ll have an interest in scrapping for a long time to come.

Which is why I was delighted to pen a novella as Jack Tunney in the new Fight Card MMA series. An old-school writing style applied to a modern sport and publishing model. An opportunity to exercise my writing muscles and draw on some of my low-level fighting experience. And an Irish setting? Writing Welcome to the Octagon was a no-brainer. Making it about an underground scrapper with greater aspirations was my most obvious move. I resisted playing on the booze stereotype, though. Gotta keep the readers on their toes. My protagonist has sworn off alcohol to become a better competitor.

Will this blend of experience and whimsy prove to be a knockout?

Read it and let me know – What have you got to lose? It’s only writing. About fighting. Nobody needs to worry about getting knocked out, except for the characters.

Find out more about Fight Card MMA and other Fight Card brands here: