Sunday, May 31, 2009

Topic of the Week

Vamps, weres, and humans, oh my

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Secret Life of Fairies

Wow, this last week has gone by so fast I could hardly keep up with it.

My post today has to do with the often overlooked race of beings of fairies. I'll admit, when writing a paranormal novel, I relegate these beings to taking a backseat role or providing comic relief. I can't seem to help it.

For example, there are four fairies in my first paranormal novel and eventually they come together to bring about the fall of a demon lord. Tiny or life-sized, these magical folk play an important role. They can impart vital information that the hero/heroine needs to know, help the leading couple over hurdles, be a guide, or generally complicate the plot and be nothing more than a nuisance the hero/heroine has to put up with in order to get to the end.

Actually, fairies are kinda like an annoying sibling when you really think about it :-)

I like them because I can write them any way. Some have scaly skin in a variety of colors, sharp pointy teeth, etc. Yeah, sometimes fairies aren't the cavity sweet brand like Tinkerbell--but that's what makes them more exciting and interesting.

They may be secondary players but don't discount them. Generally, without them, nothing would ever get done!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Step Right Up and See the Freak Show!

First off, yes I'm late. Second, I flaked last week (I blame Nichole. She was in town and it threw off my groove). I'm a bad blogger. I know, I should be dipped in tar and rolled in feathers. My finger nails should be pulled off one by one. I should be asked strange questions by small sage Oriental men like "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" until my head explodes. It's been that kind of week.

Now that that's out of the way.

I've mentioned last time I blogged (Yeah, Two weeks ago, I know) that I'm stepping away from the usual Supes. My story doesn't have Vamps. No Ware-creatures are found. Admittedly, it started out with the usual suspects, but like all good plans, that went awry. I've made my main characters an entirely new race of Supe, one that has it's origins in Lord Of The Rings, but a new one none the less. I don't stop there however, but kind of re-cap all the "lost" supes that are around, just forgotten. I didn't realize how forgotten these races were till I answered a couple of questions last time (both on the blog and in person) about some of the Supes I mentioned. So I thought it'd be a good idea to get you all re-acquainted with some of our long neglected sister races.

The first race is a given. ELVES. These are our beautiful, mystical, and wise brethren. Tall and usually blond, they live in the forests making beautiful music and art, only allowing a few special Humans to ever see them and bask in their glory. Their entire existence and everlasting life is for one purpose: to take care of the Earth and her bounty. Like Orlando Bloom in a blond wig, they really are that gorgeous. Elves have an affinity to silver, and cannot touch iron in any form. They do not live in trees and make cookies.

The DROW are like Elves but evil. As light as Elves are, the Drow are dark. Every Elf that loves a human, there is a Drow that will destroy one. Drow have the same love of silver and hate of iron as their goody-goody counterparts.

REDCAPS are evil little twisted man like creatures that hang out on well traveled roads. They'd rather kill you and smear their hats with you blood (thus the name), as look at you. I have a friend that once told this joke: "An army with a hundred battalions was cresting a hill. In the distance they saw a Redcap jumping up and down. The general sent the first battalion over the hill. From over the hill came bloodcurdling screams. They saw the Redcap jumping again. The next battalion was sent, with the same result. And again. By this time the General was mad. Surely his army could take out a single Redcap!! He sent over the very last battalion, and again there was this bloodcurdling scream. This time however, one of his men crawled over the hill to the General and yelled 'We never stood a chance, there were TWO of them!!!'" That gives you a little clue about how nasty they were!

IMPs are mischievous fairy like creatures that like to steal things. Especially shiny things. The next time your keys go missing, it's probably an Imp. They differ from your usual garden variety Fairy by not wearing the flower petal clothing that you get with the regular fairy. They love music and food, and will do almost anything for you if you treat them well. Keep Imps on your good side though, if you ever want to see your car keys again.

You will probably never see a BROWNIE. They only work at night, and only if you bribe them with food and drink first. Brownies will do any work you have around the house from cleaning to laundry. They've even been known to cobble shoes. While they are needed, Brownies live somewhere in your house that no one else will. Usually somewhere like a storage room or crawl space. And as long as they are needed, and not treated like servants, they will help out.

A GNOME is a little slumped over man shaped creature that lives in the earth. It's actually the embodiment of the Earth Elemental, kind of like a Water Sprite. Gnomes are a little different from most Supes, in that there have been actual Gnome sightings caught on video. I haven't seen them yet (but I will as soon as I'm done with the blog), but from what I gather, there kind of like the Nessie sightings... black and white and grainy. And honestly, probably faked.

DWARVES are usually a lot like LOTR and Terry Pratchett led us to believe. (side note, if you don't know who Terry Pratchett is, shame on you and drive directly to the closest book store!!!) They live underground, mining for gold and precious gems. Master weapon makers and jewelers. The main thing to remember when talking to a Dwarf is that you can't be sure if your talking to a male or female Dwarf, they both have such full beards. Though I would think that if you're talking to a Dwarf, and the beard has a pretty pink ribbon in it, it's a female (or at least a very liberal male).

The weirdest one I know of is the POOKA. This strange little shape shifter will change itself into any dark animal (usually a horse), in order to interact with you, and lead you away from danger. They can speak to humans, so I'm sure that gets a little weird. Next time you're stone cold sober, and a big black horse tells you to move over... LISTEN TO IT!!!

I'm sure that there are other's I've missed. Let me know if you think of any.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Better late than never?...

Better late than least that's how the saying goes. Thanks to a houseful of sick kids, a hospital visit with one of them and myself being down for the count, I'm doing a lot of catching up today(Forgive me?), so let me update.

Nichole, Mayhem in the Midlands sounds like it was a blast! Happy belated Memorial Day to everyone here in the states. I hope you all had fun in the sun (or chilly weather) with cookouts and parties. I also hope everyone took a moment to remember why we have the holiday and honored veterans, serving, retired and fallen.

I guess we don't have a paranormal topic this week as yet, but I was watching something on the history channel while my daughter was in the hospital. Okay, so I was actually watching her iv drip with extreme paranoia than she would have to have her appendix out when it turned out it was just a stomach bug. Anyway, the fleeting question was "Does the moon have an effect on human behavior? More specifically the full moon? And if so why?"

There are different schools of thought on this. Personally, I say yes. For one, my mom was a nurse and will tell you the full moon always made the patients in the psychiatric ward a challenge. Crime rates spike around a full moon. So do births. Think about it. The moon controls the tides, and humans are at least 70% water right, I think. So why not. Something to ponder.
Back to the virtual piles of work that await. Edits have started Yay!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mayhem Recap

First, let me wish a happy Memorial Day to all of you in the States.  

Second, please forgive me for not delving into the paranormal this week.  

I was lucky enough to attend this year's Mayhem in the Midlands.  The guest of honor was Dana Stabenow and the toastmaster was Jan Burke.  In addition, they had an international guest of honor, Zoe Sharp.  Mayhem is a small conference (only 200 are even allowed to register), so I actually got to meet these incredible authors.  Talk about stoked!  (Oh, and Zoe and her husband ride motorcycles.  I've offered to send them Sturgis Rally shirts.  OK, so maybe I was sucking up a little!)

During the conference there were panels on everything from s
elf-defense (by Zoe and Dana) to DNA (no, I can't remember who was on that one...  Zoe, I think) to forensic artists (with Sue Senden) to writing strong characters and locations (multiple panels there, sorry!).  It was amazing.

One panel was on short story writing.  That was the one I was asked to participate in.  I can't begin to tell you how honored I was to be there.  I tried to back out, but one of the organizers of Mayhem is a bulldog!  She just wouldn't let me.  And I'm glad.  The panel was moderated by Beth Groundwater and also included Kaye George and Pat Dennis.  These were some fantastic women!

When I was in the military, we knew that every so often the "powers that be" would send people off to a school.  There you learned your job a little better, learned the ins and outs of supervising others, got a little more excited about the Air Force.  We called it getting "re-blued."  That's what Mayhem in the Midlands did for me.  I'm excited about writing (not that I wasn't before, but I have a new appreciation).  I'm excited about the people I met there and wish each of them all the best in their own writing careers.

It doesn't get better then that!


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Real Estate

Real estate is hot and location is everything, right?

Maybe so, but the setting of your novel could go either way.

The great thing about writing in the paranormal genre is the characters. Big or small, the characters are what will pull the reader in and keep them there.

BUT--I have to say setting can be a big chunk of the story. For example, take my book The Art of Fang Shui. The bulk of the book is set in a national park in Indiana. At night. Sometimes in the rain. What's more creepy than a dark, spooky forest on a moonless night in the pouring rain? Add in a cast of questionable characters and wham! There's a great story.

OR--in the sequel to that book. The story takes place in ordinary settings: an apartment, a marriage counselor office, office buildings. The setting is the background in this instance because the characters themselves are larger than life and can carry the tale.

Bottom line: it doesn't really matter as long as everything is interesting and works together to create an awesome book :-)

Happy haunting.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Time, Place and Space...

Don't flog me! I'm sorry this post is late! I wrote mine and posted early and only today just realized it didn't post.

There's a time and place for everything. The same holds true when writing a story. If the tone of your novel is dark you wouldn't want to set it in a park with bright happy clowns everywhere, now would you? Of course not.

Setting is so much more than where your characters interact. It sets the tone and time and can even serve as a sneak peek into your characters personality. Take Gyspy Moon for instance. Since it is a short novella, Ana and Howl are expected to carry out the story, but the isolated cabin, night, woods and thunderstorms set an atmosphere that is important to add the suspense and the bubble I wanted them to live in. The setting makes the story more intense.

Then there's Bite Me!, my vampire wip, that is set all over the place. Each of the Seven come from different continents, and in snips of backstory we see their homelands. Since their power is tied to the land those settings are very important. Most of Kail's story takes place in a near future city type setting, dark and dangerous like himself. He also has the power to fold time and travel backward, forward or just a different place within the time he is in.

Don't skimp on the world-building, even if it is the one you live in. Setting isn't everything, but its a great tool if you know how to use it.


Monday, May 18, 2009

The setting makes the story... kinda

I'm  not sure if I've mentioned it, but Ghost Mountain is the first in a series.  I've started the second book, tentatively titled Let Sleeping Bears Lay.  The original plan was to have seven books in the series, each mystery taking place at another location around the Black Hills.  Though now the number in the series may end up being 12.

You see, the crimes in the series all take place at Lakota Holy Sites.  The Black Hills area is a very sacred place to the Lakota people and I'm fascinated with their history and culture.  The change in numbers depends on which "expert" you listen to.  Are there seven sacred sites?  Or are there 12?  

In the grand scheme of things, it probably doesn't matter.  There are areas throughout the hills where you can feel the energy.  Devils Tower is magnificent and inspires feelings of awe.  Then again, Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood (final resting place of  Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, among others) invokes those same feelings in me.  

For this series, setting makes the story.  I would have a totally different story without the feelings, legends, and history of Devils Tower or Bear Butte.  There would be no need for the Lakota tie-in if the crimes happened somewhere else.  And that tie is the reason one of my characters is in the story.

When I write short stories, though, the setting isn't as important.  It's the characters I focus on then.  Even in a novel, it's the characters who keep us reading.  With fewer words to play with, the setting in a short becomes less relevant.

So here's to the setting!  Take those spooky or historical or just plain fantastic places and use them!  Let the setting help tell your story....  if you can.

P.S.  I'm headed to Mayhem in the Midlands.  I hope to tell you all about it next week!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Topic of the Week

Paranormal Settings:  A step up or a set down

Friday, May 15, 2009

Welcome Writer Keri Stevens...

According to perennial optimist Keri Stevens, "Leap! . . . and love will catch you." She writes contemporary, paranormal romantic fiction, and loves talking with other readers and writers. Her novel excerpt from Stone Kissed placed first in the first-round judging of the Wisconsin RWA's Fab Five contest. Visit her at

Am I paranormal enough?In my work-in-progress, my heroine talks to statues, and they talk back. Her nemesis (a distant cousin) is a succubus who, ahem, loves her men to death. As descendants of a family of witches and weird women in a small town, the neighbors aren't too surprised by their powers--but the rest of the world is your normal, garden-variety every-day universe. My heroine is as normal as a girl can be when she's spent most of her life half-convinced that she is insane. My hero has a hint of power of his own--but just a hint!I love my story and am having a blast writing (and revising) it. But the paranormals I read go much, much further afield from "normative" reality: Ferocious warrior women with martial arts skills to rival any CGI character take on zombie gargoyles in a post-apocalyptic universe in which the heroes (and all of their happy parts) are much larger than life. Even the comedic novels layer in multiple paranormal elements: The witches ride Harleys with talking dogs (love that book, Angie Fox!), the vamps, weres and zombies (they are cropping up everywhere!) compete on Family Feud against cyborgs from the future.So what about you? What do you like? Do you like your paranormal universe tightly regulated, as if it could be real? Or are you more of a free-and-easy, anything-goes, give-me-all-the-fantasy-I-can-handle kind of reader?(And don't worry--no right or wrong answers here! I'm too close to the finish line on this book to substantively change it. But. . . who knows what I might do with the next one?)


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Normal in Paranormal?

The thing I like most about the paranormal genre is the lack of "normal" in anything. Whether vampires and werewolves strut across the world, or it's winged fairies, goblins, imps or ghostly residents or another sort of being creating havoc, the potential is there for alot of fun and excitement.

Is there a standard way to write one? Are there rules one must follow in order to be considered good paranormal writer? I don't have the answer, but for me I've found if you build a world (or even use your existing reality) you've got the hard part done.

When creating a paranormal, not only do you need a cast of strong characters, you need to decide beforehand what the tone is going to be: serious, dark, light-hearted, funny? Anything is acceptable as long as your plot is believable enough to carry the story. Believable in paranormal? You bet. I'm a firm believer that anything can happen in our world, and just because we can't see it or haven't yet encoutered it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Bottom line? Anything goes in a paranormal story. And the biggest thing? Have fun. If you enjoy it so will everyone else. Who knows? You may just make someone else believe too!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

what IS paranormal anyway?

Paranormal is anything that is considered "above" normal (thank you Ghost Hunters). But pretty much anything can be considered above normal if you think about it. A door slamming, a strange wind. de javu. If you put spooky enough music behind it, anything can be paranormal.

Since so many things can be weird and spooky, for me, to be classified as paranormal it has to be really outstanding. Ghosts? Yes, but they have to be verifiable GH style. Ware Wolves? Tons of history to back it up, yes! Vampires? Gross (what with all the blood drinking), but yeah, paranormal. Aliens landing? Absolutely qualifies.

But lets face it, paranormal is becoming mainstream. Every day there is a new book or tv show about what used to be considered paranormal. Some are real, some aren't. And with each one that comes out, it's a little less para, and a hell of a lot more normal. We've taken the weirdness out of it. And I'm not too sure that's a good thing. Vamps are done to death (pun intended). Wares have been done from every angle from different species (ware cat) to a WOLF that turns into a HUMAN every full moon. With as many B-grade movies that have come out in recent years, even ghosts are on their way to being passe.

So lets have a resurgence of the old school Para!! Remember the stories your grandparents told you about brownies? Write them down. Are garden Gnomes really the passive observers they appear to be? Who knows!! Know what a "house weight" is? These are part of our paranormal heritage. Something we should keep alive and well!

Though it did start out with a ware wolf main character, my story deals more with paranormal races, rather than the usual vamps and wares. So instead of dealing with just one or two types of Supes, I have almost an unlimited army to choose from. Elves, Drow, Faries. Trolls, ogres, and Imps, Oh MY! I didn't know just how many para-races there are till I started to research it. (currently enamored on a little thing called a Pooka, Still trying to figure out how to work it into the story.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Is it paranormal? Fantasy?

What makes a story paranormal? How do you define the line between paranormal and fantasy? Do I really write paranormal? Or has it gone beyond the other and into the realms? And if I do write paranormal, how do I know I have enough to make the grade? All very good questions.

All my stories have at least some magical element in them. Maybe a hereditary witch or just a magical occurence. Vampires, all sorts of shifters and ghosts all fall into the category Paranormal. Don't they? But have you ever seen a fanged vampire of the legendary variety, or seen a man shift into a wolf or panther? (Not me, but that would be too cool.) So, then aren't they Fantasy? Or do we reserve that slot for dragons, wizards and other worlds.

If I set a story on earth in either this universe or an alternate reality and the main character/s have a super ability than overshadows their everyday lives I consider it paranormal. If I choose to plunk the same characters in a world three galaxies away where dragons bow down to frogs and they all talk, that's fantasy. Is it paranormal enought? Or should I be targeted places like Tor? Depends on the reader, writer and scores of others. When it comes down to it, write what you love. That's what you know best and your heart will tell you when its found the right home.

*Have a piece of Virtual strawberry cake with cream cheese icing. It's my b'day!"


Monday, May 11, 2009

Do I really write paranormal?

Have you noticed that vampires are a hot commodity these days?  My stories don't include vampires or weres of any kind.  They don't have fairies or elves.  No dragons or unicorns, either.

So do I really write paranormal?

I think so.

Of my main characters, one is a Lakota spirit guide.  He offers insight to my protagonist in ways that my "flesh-and-blood" characters can't.  But is it enough?

Between Stephanie Meyer and her Twilight series, Charlaine Harris and her Sookie Stackhouse books, and JR Ward and the Black Dagger Brotherhood, the market is full of vampires.  Come to think of it, each of  those series has a few token werewolves, as well.

So what do you think makes a story paranormal?  Does it count if "mythical" creatures aren't represented?  Or do ghosts and tarot cards in the story qualify?

I'd love to hear your opinions!


Friday, May 8, 2009

Welcome Guest C.J. Ellisson

C.J. Ellisson is an avid reader of anything paranormal, fantasy and supernatural. She noticed there was decided lack in the genre for hot monogamy and decided to write a book revolving around a dedicated couple.

A married mother of two, C.J. is struggling, like most, to balance all aspects of her life. The fit seems to be a good one so far! Her passion comes through in her vibrant characters and their humorous outlook on life.

Visit The VV Inn located in Alaska, a resort for the undead and their companions. The hot married innkeepers manipulate the sexual escapades of the guests while trying to solve a murder. It’s a harried week of adventure to say the least! Come explore the world she creates and see if you aren’t drawn in too.

From Book Club to Writer

I’m a new writer in the paranormal genre – well, let me clarify further. I’m a new writer, period. I’ve always had ideas; I’ve always had visions of grandeur and I’ve always had dreams about writing a book.

My book club and one member changed that all for me.

This past January, near the end of the month, I attended a book club where the book discussed was ‘The Other Boleyn Girl.” I didn’t finish it, but watched the movie instead. I was much more interested in getting back to my fast-paced vampire and werewolf books; they always hold me, grip me by the throat, and drag me along to finish reading quickly.

What I did get out of the meeting was much more important than discussing the latest book, I heard two of my friends talking about the books they are writing. I was shocked. What could they know about this that I didn’t? Could it really be as easy as just writing stuff down?

One of them, Supriya, drove me home that night and we talked in my driveway for almost an hour about her book, writing and my ideas. She was incredibly enthusiastic and supportive – loved my concept, loved my opening line and told me to get to work. I thanked her profusely, but honestly thought she was just being kind.

She contacted me the next day. She was serious when she offered for us to get together to talk about writing. The email she left told me we would get together in a few days for lunch and she wanted to see an outline.

Holy Crap! An Outline?!?

Ideas started churning in my head and I started to think of the plot. I mean really try to figure out where it could go. A day or two later she called me to confirm, and as of yet, I had still done nothing. Her kindness and high energy just oozed through the line – it was contagious! She told me to skip the outline and start writing the first chapter, that I had so many ideas I should get them down on paper.

That was when I started to think maybe I could give it a try, and if it was bad, well, at least I gave it a shot.

On February 10th, I started to write. When Supriya and I met for lunch the following week I had the whole chapter done and she was the first after my husband to read it. She was floored!! She couldn’t stop saying enough good things and made my head so big I was lucky I ever came back to earth!

I started to write more in earnest, followed her sage advice to make sure I knew the end before I started, and began to outline my work. The outline had always been in my head, but now I put pen to paper and wrote three or four short sentences describing the action/movement of plotline in each one.

By the time I hit chapter nine in March, I knew I should get some feedback. What would happen if I kept going and it was all crap? Supriya had read some more and still raved about everything I wrote and offered me some of the best critiques on my pieces to date. But, well, honestly, at this point I started to think she was blowing some serious sunshine up my a**.

Who the hell am I? I have no background in writing, I’m just some schmoe that decided to give it a go. She gave me some great direction – take some classes, join a critique group, join some writing guilds and learn to hone the craft.

I joined several guilds, two crit groups, two critiquing sites and then started to market myself everywhere I could think of. I have a sales background, so this part was easier for me then writing.

Now, here I am in May and I’m on chapter 15! Yes, I slowed down with all the re-write distractions, critiquing and self promoting, but I’m firmly back on track. I have a following on Facebook, which still shocks me, and am signed up for my first writing class next month.

I met Bethany in a crit group and she invited me here – for which I feel very honored. This truly is a Frightening Journey, the road to becoming published and I’m grateful to be included among such talent.

Thanks – I’m happy to be here,
C.J. Ellisson

Thursday, May 7, 2009

World building & believing

I’ve written in a lot of different genres, but I have to say doing the paranormal thing is by far the most satisfying genre I do. Why? I have the freedom to write about whatever I want in whichever setting my mind can dream up. It’s an awesome feeling.

Prime example: Just sold a vampire book in which the bulk of the setting takes place in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Park. It’s a beautiful place, all full of woods, sandy lakeshore, marshes, hilly dunes, walking trails and history. I thought it would be the perfect place for a regular woman to encounter the paranormal world: vampires, fairies, a goat man, a werewolf. I even incorporated some local ghost story lore into the mix.

Awesome. It’s amazing what your imagination can come up with if you give it half the chance. Of course, that being said, it totally creeps me out to be in the woods after dark—for no other reason because of my overactive imagination. The worlds I create seem to taunt and tease me.

For its sequel, the paranormal once again comes sneaking into real life. A marriage councilor is a gypsy, an attorney is in reality a dragon, a disgruntled mermaid who spends her time in a rusted out school bus in a golf course lake, and a pixie with an attitude that lives in an upstairs linen closet. If you can dream it, you can write it.

My point? I guess I don’t really have one today, but if you should have any questions, please ask. I’ll be back—every Thursday—unless the things that go bump in the night get me first…

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Once again, of course, I'm running horribly late. Thankfully I'm at least getting the Blog in on the right day.

I've written before about how my characters don't seem to want to go where I want them to go. It's a constant source of frustration for me. And finally this week, I'd had enough. I decided if the damn things didn't want to go where I wanted them to go, then I'd sit back and let them lead me.

And something wonderful happened.

Wanda suddenly became Olivia. There were no vampires. No ware wolves. Instead, an entirely new creature emerged, something I'd only read about once or twice. Something akin to the Dunadane ( I know I didn't spell that right) from Lord Of The Rings. Olivia and Steven (as they will now be known) showed me that the story I started out with was a good jumping off point, but the one they would finish would be so much better.

So I'm sorry that the Blog entry is a little late today, but I have a good reason...

I was writing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Skeletons in the Closet...

Do you run your characters lives like a special op? Need to know basis only? How much information is too much? No writer wants the dreaded "info dump" yanking their readers out of the story, but without some information how can the reader identify with your heroine or hero?

Every hero and heroine, even the secondary characters, need a few skeletons in the closet. A past is important to the whys and whats of the now. The hero lost a wife and child, or the heroine is abused by her ex. These types of things make your characters breathe and strive to fight through the current mess you put them in, but please don't give me the graphic detail of past wrongs. Do we care as readers if Howl's cousin ten times removed tossed his mother-in-law off a bridge because she insulted his potato salad and his dog on his birthday? LOL Of course not, as a writer it's important to know. How else could we understand why our characters do what they do?

Watch Fridays for new guest bloggers. Up this week is C.J. Ellison.


Monday, May 4, 2009

A little bit of history, a little bit of mystery

For you writers out there, how well do you know your characters before you write them?

For you readers, how much of the character's past do you really want to know?

I get the idea that authors need to know their characters.  Unfortunately, I have a tendency to want to share all that I know!  So how much history do readers want?  Do you want to know what makes my antagonist do what he or she does?  What makes them into murderers and such?  Or is it enough to know why my protagonist feels the need to help bring the killer to justice?

To be honest, I don't always know what motivates my characters.  Maybe that's why I want to share the things I do know.  As a writer, it's enough for me to know what makes my antagonist act at the moment.  As a reader, I am usually OK with that, as well.  I want to know how and why the crime was  committed, but I don't necessarily need to know everything that led the "perp" to that moment.

Its almost like a balancing on a tightrope, this fine line between what to give a reader and what I need to know as the author.  Give the reader enough information to care -- to show that even the "bad guy" isn't all bad, and the "good guy" has some issues to work out -- but not so much information that the story lags.  

And I know most of it before I start.  Maybe its because I write mysteries, but I feel like I need to at least know who the antagonist is before I write the first words of the story.  I couldn't imagine having my characters decide they needed to change their past on me!  YIKES!

But I do want to know.  Do you, as a reader, want to know their whole pasts?  Or just enough to make the story flow?