Sunday, January 31, 2010

Topic of the week

What qualifies as romance, does it have to be hearts and flowers?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Only dates the bad boys

Okay, I've totally not been pulling my weight around here. Granted my butt has been stuck in bed post-op, but still, I could have tried a little harder to do something more than nothing. However, this week's topic has taken a shine to my heart. Seriously.

I love me a bad boy.

When Hannibal Lecter exploded onto the scene in Silence of the Lambs I had shivers and not of fear. My friends were actually more freaked out by the freak sitting next to them than by the one on the screen I was so happy-bouncy in my chair in the theater. Yes, I squealed like a teen groupie at a Jonas Brother concert, and this was after reading the book first (a rare thing for those who know true book-fiends).

Over the years I've had love affairs (in my mind) with great villains of screen and literature, never the real deal. Why not the real thing? There is a fine line between genius and insanity, in fiction the line is delicately danced over, polished up and made to glow. In reality that shining veneer is ripped off and laid bare in such a way that every hard edge and angle is exposed so that only the true sociopath could cover themselves with enough hubris to emerge with a modicum of attraction for this ever inquisitive mouse.

But right now, I think the leading man for best bad guy has to be the brother of FBI Agent Aloyius Pendergast (created by the ever talented writers Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child) - Diogenes Dagrepont Bernoulli Pendergast. Hmmm....but then the lot of the Pendergast family had some nifty mass murderers in it aside from Diogenes. I think I related to him rather well because of the mismatched eyes and the brain damage coupled with high intelligence. Not a combination you come across every day, you know. This man doesn't strive to be understood, looked up to, or even accepted, he has a goal and a means to an end - his own psychopathy dipped in sociopathic tendencies stewed in vast quantities of knowledge and intellect. Regardless of looks, he's a hell of a package to a freak like me. Or is that kindred soul? Once upon a time it would have been a scary thought... as I get older, it doesn't even worry me, it just interests me all the more...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Favorite villian?

Since, I've already posted about my favorite villians, I'll give you a general idea of the sort of villian I like to create and /or read.  He or she must have these essential parts to catch my attention, regardless of genre or novel length.
  • History- What made them the person they are? In tiny bits of information if you please.
  • Depth - Bad guy or not they still need to breathe.
  • General nastiness with purpose ie. Make the hero work for it, nobody wants a spineless villian.
I've seen good ones, bad ones and those that be "Geez put it back on the shelf." Make them strong, nasty and terrying and I'll be entertained. Have a great week y'all.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I, Zombie, and the Art of Indie Horror Movies

Last year, when a good friend of ours told us he was making a zombie film and needed extras to play the part, both myself and my husband jumped at the opportunity to be daubed in corpse paint.

A little bit of background: Both my husband and I are fans of zombie movies. Our idea of the ultimate in Friday evening entertainment is finding the trashiest B-grade horror film, especially if it features zombies, then vegging out at home.

My husband also has this, erm... quirk. He knows it freaks me out when he pretends to be a shambling undead corpse, and he chases me about the house, delighting in my screams of anguish.

So... on Saturday evening, Thomas and I willingly allowed a bunch of makeup artists to apply greasepaint and fake gore, then shambled about the location for that night's shooting, from midnight to about 3.30am.

There's something so liberating about wearing makeup, even if one is made up to look like the undead. It's almost as if one is able to draw on the persona of the character you are pretending to be. When the time came and the director shouted "Action!" Nerine didn't exist anymore. It was as if a fog shrouded my critical thinking and I was that bloodthirsty, gorey creature out for a good night's killing.

A lot of the time we stood around doing nothing, but there were those priceless moments when we were in full swing and, I can tell you this much, it was intensely liberating.

Afterward, the lead actress approached me to tell me that we were the best zombies she'd had the "pleasure" of working with during the shoot. She'd been genuinely afraid. This was echoed later when the director called to thank us for our time. He'd seen that Thomas and I were really good... zombies. (Errr, should I take that as a compliment?)

Thomas told me later this was one of the few times he didn't need to act.

Oh, my... (What have I married?)

But what I'd like to get at is when writing some creature or being that is totally alien, it is vital that an author shove aside those human thoughts and emotions, and really get into the creature's head.

Feel the beast, and the madness that lurks and itches just beneath the skin, and let it out when creating prose. This experience of being able to step outside one's self into a totally alien environment, if translated, will succeed in showing readers (or an audience) another world, and it will come across as authentic.

Of course it's all make-believe but hell, it's sometimes fun being scared.

A little epilogue... Thomas and I had nowhere to get cleaned up after the shoot. We had a 30km drive back to the far south peninsula and I was so relieved there were no road blocks set up. I had this horror of explaining to a police officer what was really going on behind the red corn syrup and greasepaint.

For anyone curious to know a little more about the indie horror movie that's currently being filmed in Cape Town, South Africa, go check out:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Favorite villain? Hard to pick just one....

As we close out the month of January—and our discussion on villains—we wondered who the "best" fictional villain was. Even after a month of mulling it over, I don't have an answer.

I like Professor Moriarty of Sherlock Holmes fame. He is a worthy opponent for the great detective. But I'm not sure he's my "favorite."

Who do you like? Who do you love to hate?


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Topic of the week

Who is your favorite fictional villain and why?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Meet Cerridwen, the hero of the novel

Cerridwen Lynn Baker is the protagonist of my novel Ghost Mountain and the sequel I'm currently working on. In fact, she will be the protagonist of an entire series. My villains, however, are a one-time character. They show up in one book, never to be seen again.

For me, therefore, Cerridwen is much more difficult to write. She must learn and grow from book to book. She has to have a consistent voice. She must be likable, otherwise who would read the books?

Cerridwen, who prefers to be called "Cerri," is like a friend to me, and that's a good thing. As the author, I need to know what Cerri likes and dislikes. Her favorite foods. Things she absolutely hates. Because my novels are written in first person, I really need to know everything there is to know about Cerri!

I can be a little more secretive about the villains in my work. I don't need to know quite as much about them. I don't need to know, for example, the name of his or her best friend in the third grade.

So what do I know about Cerri? Here is a list of 10 really important things about her (in no particular order).
  1. She hates her name.
  2. She's married with three kids.
  3. Cerri loves her family and puts them above everything else in the world.
  4. She is a freelance journalist and photographer.
  5. Cerri's dad was in the military, so she grew up moving often.
  6. She really just wants to be "normal" and doesn't want anything to do with the wise woman ways of her mother.
  7. As much as she doesn't want to admit it, she's pretty good at reading Tarot cards.
  8. Cerri sees much of the world as "black or white," "good or evil," and wants to make the world a better place.
  9. She has a short temper and can get frustrated easily.
  10. She truly judges people on their actions, and not their appearance.
There you have it. Some of the important things about my main character. Enjoy her!


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Topic of the week

As a writer, which is more difficult to write: the hero or the villain?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nice villians?

Truth be told, heroes aren't all they're cracked up to be. Have you ever stepped back and really looked at the whole hero scene? It's true they save people in dire situations. Noble, yes. Some have powers, some don't, but they are usually cookie cutter perfect. How boring is that? Where is the growth of character that makes them appealing?

Now villians are another story. Whether they are the actual antagonist or just colorfully bad secondary characters, villians bring a whole new aspect to the playing field. Unlike a hero, they are wonderfully flawed and sometimes unapologetically evil.  My favorite bad guy out of all the books, shows, movies, etc. is Sesshomaru (For those of you who don't watch anime, he is the older brother of half-demon Inuyasha in the anime Inuyasha)

Sesshomaru is a full demon and is his father's eldest heir. Violent, cunning and powerful he certainly gives his half brother no end of trouble, constantly trying to kill Inuyasha and his love interest time-traveling Kagome.  But he's not all bad.  After stumbling across a wounded little girl who had taken care of him when he was hurt, Sesshomaru decides to use the sword his father bequethed him to bring her back to life (the only thing the sword is good for). Ren becomes his only friend, following him on his travels and slowly changing him for the better.  He would kill for her and die for her, though normally self serving and evil. Point is this.  He feels justified in his actions and truly believes what he does is right. It all depends on which side of the coin you stand on.  What villians do you sympathize with? Why? What makes them special and how do you recreate that in your writing?
Be blessed,

Monday, January 11, 2010

Every good girl wants some bad

To put it mildly, heroes bore me to tears. I'm not quite sure when I changed allegiance to the bad guys but I've always preferred flawed heroes... the bad guy, in other words, whose motivations are at odds with many, who is obsessed with his goals, often isolating him from the rest of the world.

Dracula was the first, and yes, Gary Oldman's rendition is pretty darn spiffy but the first version of Dracula that saw me begin my love/hate relationship with antagonists was the Christopher Lee version. Damn, I used to get nightmares, and then some. That was the first time I remembered feeling sad that the bad guys lost. Just what was it that freaked me out? Well, nothing could stop him. There was this air of the forbidden about him. He wasn't sexy but women couldn't resist him. Or at least I didn't find him sexy. Perhaps as a child growing up he represented the fear of the unknown in men. Vampires don't freak me out like they used to.

My next antagonist I agonised over was Catwoman—the Tim Burton version starring Michelle Pfeiffer. She's daring and vengeful, and her doomed love of Bruce Wayne sees her at war with her impulse to be Catwoman, or relinquish her power to the man she loves. I like her because she stays true to herself. Batman would never have allowed Catwoman to roam and she had to make that choice—freedom or love. Maybe it's because none of us are able to have everything we want, that she appeals to me. Catwoman chooses the ideal that gives her the most power, though she sacrifices some joy in order to obtain it.

Anakin Skywalker will always be the true hero of the Star Wars saga, in my mind. As the menacing Darth Vader he's nearly every SF buff's favourite villain and the root of many of my childhood nightmares. But, beneath that gleaming black carapace there's a man, who suffered for his love and, although misled, believed he was doing the right thing at the time. Anakin is the ultimate in anti-hero and I love him for his tragedy. I'm not sure which episode the prophecy was mentioned stating that Anakin would "bring balance to the Force"... but in truth, he was the one who brought balance to the Force in the end when he tossed Emperor Palpatine to his death. It's just that the route he took to get there was a bit... erm... convoluted. Luke Skywalker is just a puling little wimp in comparison.

A special word for the very suave Hannibal Lecter, so ably portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins. If ever there were a serial murderer I'd allow myself to be dined upon by, it would be Hannibal. Charming and cultured, he is the perfect gentleman and would probably provide some of the most witty conversation you could wish for yet... beneath that veneer of sophistication lies a ruthless killer, who suffers no remorse for ending a life. To me he is like a dangerous jungle cat, to be respected and feared, even, but to be appreciated for the way he has refined his art.

Last but not least, is my favourite real-life bad boy: Aleister Crowley. Known as the "wickedest man in the world" he really had no limits to his depravity, the depths of which are beyond the scope of this blog post. Yet, he was also resposible for being on the most influential minds responsible for kick-starting modern Western mysticism. Highly intelligent yet irreverent, he was also a classic case of "do what I say, but don't do what I do." He is often one of the most misunderstood villains, cropping up very often in works of fiction or film as the perfect antagonist. Gentleman, seducer, poet, author, mountaineer, junkie... He was a man of many facets.

There are loads of other villains out there but these are but the handful who remain my firm favourites. I would love to know who your favourite villain is and why.

There's a little bit of good in every villain

My villains come from all over.

Those of you who have read my meanderings on character development know I don't believe a person (real or fictional) is all good or all evil.

How many of you have seen this bit of internet trivia?

It is time to elect a new world leader, and only your vote counts. Here are the facts about the three leading candidates.

Candidate A: Associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologists. He's had two Mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks 8 to 10 martinis a day.

Candidate B: He was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in college and drinks a quart of whiskey every evening.

Candidate C: He is a decorated war hero. He's a vegetarian, doesn't smoke, drinks an occasional beer and never cheated on his wife.

Which of these candidates would be your choice? Decide first, no peeking, then scroll down for the answer.

Based on those descriptions, who wouldn't select "Candidate C"? If you're familiar with this riddle, however, you know that Candidate C was only married a few hours before he and his longtime mistress-turned-wife committed suicide. Candidate C was also one of the most prolific mass-murderers of all time, killing more than 2.7 million people. Most of us wouldn't select Adolf Hitler to use a ruler, let alone rule anything!

Obviously, he had some good qualities. Clearly he took care of his own health -- well, up until the suicide thing.

My point is there had to be some spark of good in that 99% evil man.

The same is true for the woman at the dry cleaners who always manages to lose your clothes. Or the jerk who cut you off on the way into work. Or the paperboy who can never manage to deliver the paper onto the porch. Those everyday people have some evil. And some good.

So where do my villains come from? The people who tick me off, of course! I know they probably aren't really as bad as I imagine them, but it sure makes me feel better to write them that way and to know they "get what's coming to them" in the end!

Now that I think about it, maybe that's the reason I like this t-shirt so much.




Candidate A is Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Candidate B is Winston Churchill.
Candidate C is Adolph Hitler.

For the entire story, go to:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Topic of the week

How do you find your villains?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hello, I'll be your villian this evening...

Some of you may wonder "What the heck is Beth doing here instead of Sandra? It is Thursday, right?" Sandra has decided to take a break from the blog.  Her writing career and responsibilities are running wide open and she needed to address those.  I'm sure she'll stop by the guest blog now and again and hopefully come back full time when she can, until then I'll be taking her spot on Thursdays.  We'll miss you, Sandi.  I wish you tons of blessings with your writing. Don't be a stranger. Now didn't we promise you a month of nasty nefarious vilianry? Let's get to it then. Meet Ashton Smythe.

If you've read Earth Enchanted you may remember Ashton Smythe.  While Niccolo Gueraldi was the kingpin with a penchant for historical diamonds and murder, his right hand man Ashton Smythe, proved to be equally devious.  In EE, I gave Smythe the appearance of a pawn or throwaway thug, perhaps a glorified butler with knife skills, when in actuallity I was gearing up for To Take Up The Sword and the conclusion of the Corrigan's time in the United States in this series.

Ashton is the kind of guy everyone wants to hate.  Orphaned at the age of twelve, he grew up on the streets of London, stealing, raping and killing when he saw the need to get what he wanted.  He began his association with Gueraldi during the same jewerly store job that gave EE's villian a lust for diamonds.  Though only in his sixties, Ashton's rough life had aged him considerably giving the false impression of an old feeble man.  A deception which leads to a messy end for many who underestimate him. He's coniving and manipulative, carefully removing any evidence, past or present, from Gueraldi's estate long before the FBI moves in and convinces a jury he was nothing more than a butler with no knowledge of Gueraldi's crimes.  Leaving him in a position to take his money and waltz out of the court room scott free.  He's careful, calculating, and deadly, a shark on land. 

Ashton is challenging every skill I possess as a writer.  As I finish up this book, I keep running into walls where I need to invent new and devious ways to torment Gabe and Lea through Ashton's evil scheming, such as shooting up their motel room and putting Lea in the position of having to kill a guy in front of an FBI agent, to save his life.  So how evil do you like your bad guys and what sort of evil gives you chills?

Be blessed,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Getting under the skin of a very bad man

To be perfectly honest, my favourite "bad good guy", James Edward Guillaume, was a complete surprise. When the idea for my urban fantasy novel, Khepera Rising, came to me late 2006, I'd had no idea I'd be creating a character who was, really, just so degenerate and by ordinary standards irredeemable. But what got me buzzing was that I knew I wanted to subvert readers' sensibilities and loyalties by having them empathise with the lead character who was, essentially, the antagonist in the story.

What if the bad guy was the good guy? What if the bad guy won for a change?

Those were the questions I posed myself when I set about writing my novel. James Edward Guillaume is not a very nice man. I make absolutely no apologies for his behaviour or his outlook on life. He is a narcissist, he has a problem with substance abuse, and he also holds incredible power to damage the people around him, not to mention the fabric of reality.

Of course these issues also create the crux for his problems, which seek resolution near the end of the novel. How he copes with these issues, both external and internal, and how he grows as a character are what is at stake.

I don't ask readers to like him, merely to see the world from his point of view for a while. And the best part is seeing how many of my readers were cheering for Jamie near the end, despite hating him for being such a right tosser.

Writing a "bad" character is much more fun than sticking with Captain Goodie-two-shoes. Sometimes you want to take a character and beat some sense into them when they act boorish or make horrendous mistakes, but as a reader, you can't do that. You're dragged along for the ride and half the fun is seeing how a bad character, with massive flaws, is able to turn around a sticky situation.

In conclusion, fantasy author Greg Hamerton had this to say: "Through sleight-of-hand plotting and misdirection Dorman induces the reader to empathise with Jamie, and we become complicit in his actions, participating in his sins whilst pretending not to know. The result of this manipulation is an emotional trap and you begin to understand that you will only find release from Jamie’s dragging guilt by reading through to the end."

For further information, see:

Monday, January 4, 2010

Good versus bad.... a timeless tale

We're going to discuss the bad guys this month. Seems fitting after the so-called season of peace. Whoever decided December was a time of peace and love, hasn't been to the mall lately. Maybe that's what has put us in the mood to discuss the antagonist.

At any rate, no matter what you think of the protagonist, the antagonist is just as important. Where would Sherlock Holmes be without Professor Moriarty? Captain Ahab without the whale? Adrian Monk without the six-fingered man?

Those famous protagonists would be forgettable without their counterparts. The interacti
on between the good guys and the bad guys is what makes the story compelling.

Someone once told me that the antagonist is the hero of his own story. (Nope, don't remember who said that. Sorry!) I think that's true. The antagonist of any story has to do whatever he or she is doing for a reason. If the author doesn't know the reason, the reader (or viewer, in the case of movies and television) won't know.

Moriarty is able to challenge Holmes. The whale kept alluding Ahab. The six-fingered man was one step ahead of Monk. Those difficulties were what kept the story line alive.

Often, as my daughter and I watch television programs or movies, we offer our opinions to the characters. No, they don't listen any better then the football coaches or referees my husband screams his thoughts to. But one thing we often find ourselves saying is "they have to do that or else the show would be over." Those are the times when the characters aren't real enough for us.

I'm curious. Which antagonists are your favorite? Who do you "love to hate" either in fiction or real life? Let me know.

But, meanwhile, try to be good to each other. Maybe we can bring the spirit of love and peace back to the mall....


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Topic of the week

What makes a good "bad guy"?