Friday, July 31, 2015

Samantha Bryant Guest Post: There is no Black and White



Hey everyone! I'm thrilled to day to present the first GUEST POST on this blog. This one comes from the lovely Samantha Bryant, author of GOING THROUGH THE CHANGE. Today she brings us a great transitional post between our series on villains and our series on heroes. Enjoy!

“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” –Oscar Wilde

When I was a little kid watching Saturday morning cartoons, I didn’t wonder why the bad guys did bad things. They were bad guys. That was reason enough. Nor did I ever consider that my good guys were anything other than right. Obviously Popeye was meant to defeat Bluto, Dick Dastardly was meant to be caught in his attempts to cheat, Wile E. Coyote would never catch the Roadrunner, and The Hall of Justice would trump the Legion of Doom every single time. It couldn’t, shouldn’t and wouldn’t ever be otherwise.



One of the first signs that I was growing up probably came while watching Scooby Doo.  I think the episode was called “Jeepers, It’s the Creeper.” I had watched it before. I had watched them all before. But for some reason, this time, I wondered why Mr. Carswell was robbing the bank, what exactly he wanted the money for. In Scooby Doo, the villains were usually out for money, but we didn’t always know why they wanted it. I wondered if he might have had a good reason. It was my first recognition that it might not all be black and white after all.

These days, I’m not much of a believer in hard lines between right and wrong, in my life or in my fiction. Good people do bad things. Bad people do good things. Good and bad are difficult to clearly define in any absolute way. It’s all about where you’re standing. Life is ambiguous. Black and white blur together into shades of gray (probably way more than fifty shades, too). You do the best you can.

My favorite stories now feature characters that are riding that line, characters that might well find themselves on the wrong side of it someday. Heroes like Batman, who is definitely in touch with his darker side, but still acts for good. Like Wolverine. “I’m the best there is at what I do. But what I do best isn’t very nice.” Or villains like Magneto, who was more right than the rest of the mutants wanted to admit about how mutant-kind would be received in the world. Or Mr. Freeze, who really just wanted to save his wife.

I wanted a story that let female characters ride that same line, and had trouble finding one. Female heroines seem to be mostly paragons of virtue and hard moral reasoning. Female villains are obviously crazy. Like Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” So I did.



So, when I began to write my own superhero novel, Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel, it should be no surprise that there’s a lot of moral ambiguity in the story. One of the big questions of the book is whether the ends justify the means, whether it really is okay to break a few eggs so you can have that omelette.



The villain of my piece, my mad scientist Dr. Cindy Liu, isn’t all bad. She began in a good place, trying to extend and improve the lives of women. But her motives became muddied with a desire to prove something, and then with revenge. She had a complicated history with the world of men, with romance, and friendship. She’s definitely walking that line and finding that her boundaries have become very very messy and blurred indeed.

The heroes aren’t all good either. Gaining superpowers didn’t instantly make all of them altruistic and willing to act in heroic and self-sacrificing ways.  They were women with lives and selfish interests to preserve. They, too, have complicated histories and desires and reasons to reassess the boundaries they have lived within up till now.

So, Going Through the Change isn’t a traditional superhero story.  It’s full of moral ambiguity, bad decisions, and learning opportunities (some of which are taken, some of which aren’t).  It’s also full of interesting superpowers and some pretty awesome fight scenes, if I do say so myself.  It’s been described as part women’s fiction part sci-fi/fantasy and that seems fair and accurate to me. 

It’s a superhero story with grown women at the heart. And the heart can be a dark and lonely place, and at the same time, the very thing that keeps us alive.


Going Through the Change is going through a change in price for a couple of days in early August. On August 5th and 6th you can get the Kindle edition for free on Amazon. Check it out at: http://bitly.com/face-the-change





Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. Her debut novel, Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel is now for sale by Curiosity Quills. You can find her online on her blog,  Twitter, on Facebook, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on the Curiosity Quills page, or on Google+

Monday, July 20, 2015

HOUR OF MISCHIEF COVER REVEAL!!!

Its here, its here, its here! BEHOLD, the amazing cover for HOUR OF MISCHIEF~


I've been obsessing over this cover since I first saw it two months ago. Its absolutely gorgeous and really captures a lot of the aesthetics I wanted. Also, green never hurts :)

You can preorder it for your kindle as well here. Not yet a print copy. I'll let you know when those become available if you're holding out for one of those. Other than that, spread the word far and wide! Add it to goodreads. I really appreciated it!

Happy Monday everyone! And happy writing along with it.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Cover Reveal Monday!

Hey guys! No normal blog posts this week, obviously. This week has been really busy. Yesterday, I flew into South Carolina to work at Shared Worlds for the second year in a row. If that name sounds familiar, its probably because I've talked about it A LOT on my blog.

Shared Worlds was, of course, the fantasy based creative writing camp where HOUR OF MISCHIEF began. I owe my soon to be published status to that camp, the instructors and my fellow students. I love going back to work there now.

And speaking of Hour of Mischief, don't forget: the cover reveal for the book is on MONDAY, July 20th. The book also goes up for pre-order that day so be sure to order a copy. It would make me super happy :)

But if you don't have the money, at least join me on Monday to squee over the amazing, AMAZING cover art. Its awesome guys, really.

Until then, happy writing!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Villain Spotlight: Zuko and Jaime Lannister

Hello and welcome to the last villain spotlight! We’ve looked at a wide range of villains over these past few months and today we’re going to look at two of the most complex baddies out there. Ones who went from villain to hero. Or sort of hero in the case of the second.

First, a look at Zuko, the exiled prince of the fire nation in Avatar the Last Airbender. Zuko starts out with a bad haircut and an equally bad attitude. 

Yes... you do.
For the first season, he’s the main antagonist for our group of heroes, trying to capture Aang to regain his honor. By the second season, he becomes more of an antihero as his sister Azula, who we’ve already talked about on this series, takes on the role of main antagonist. From then on out Zuko struggles between his light and dark side, his desire to break free of his family and his desire to be loved by them. He has a few major slip ups along the way, even throwing away a few chances at redemption before he finally becomes a full on good guy. But eventually, he gets there, and the whole world cheers.

Awkward Zuko is adorable
Zuko’s character arc is masterful. From the very beginning we feel sympathy for him because, even though he is clearly an antagonist, he’s also just a kid trying to please his father and regain his honor. He’s a teenager trying to be bad when he actually has a soft heart. From season one, Zuko has the support of the audience, rooting for him to make the right decision and shouting at the screen when he slips up. But we never give up on him


The transformation is all very slow going, which is the brilliant thing about this show. Zuko’s shift to a good guy feels organic and he faces many obstacles along the way. Its not easy to change from antagonist to protagonist, so its essential to take baby steps.


Also his hair got better. Which is important.

With Zuko, the audience feels sympathy for him early on and there are well placed hints that he will make the transition. As such, its hard to ever hate him. Jaime Lannister on the other hand…


Okay, yeah, he's pretty, but when you push a kid out a window in the first episode, you garner the hate of every raging audience member. Who does that? Also incest is gross. Jaime Lannister is not a character you start off liking. Though there are hints of a complex character beneath the surface, through season one and season two, he’s pretty terrible. I was totally fine with hating him for the duration of the show.


But then… suddenly… season three happens. 

You said it.
Before I knew it, I went from hating to adoring Jaime’s character. Mostly because of his interaction with my girl Brienne. By the Bear episode (you know the one I’m talking about), I committed Jaime to my dangerous list of favorite characters.


How did this work so well? I think it helps that Game of Thrones is a morally grey world. Most of the characters have done bad things at one time. Plenty of villains are not as they seem. And some villains are so bad that everyone else seems fine in comparison. Jaime Lannister is a human being. He’s done bad things but he’s also done VERY good things that he gets no recognition for because of vows. He also, unlike most of the players in Game of Thrones, has no interest in the throne itself. Even Tyrion has ambitions for power but Jaime recognizes that its not his scene. There’s something pretty respectable about that.


Going back to watch the first two seasons of Game of Thrones, its easy to see the signs of Jaime’s arc. It happened so smoothly you didn’t even realize it was happening until it was too late. And now you have an OTP in Game of Thrones which is super dangerous because everything you love dies but they’re still alive but separated and you want them together again and I SWEAR, DAVE AND DAN, IF YOU KILL THEM BEFORE THEY MEET AGAIN I WILL END YOU!


Sorry. Got of track. What were we talking about?

Right. Well-constructed arcs. The transition is everything with these characters. If there’s a poor transition, the character won’t be as convincing or endearing. Make it gradual. Take your time.
That’s it for the last villain spotlight. Next week we’ll be starting a new series on types of heroes. Because those are pretty important too.

Also, in other news, the cover reveal of HOUR OF MISCHIEF is marked for July 20th. Mark your calendars because that’s also when the book goes up for preorder! *squeals and flails*

Until next time, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Villains and Villainy- The Redeemed

Alright, so here we come to our final villain type and one of my personal favorites. The redeemed villain. This is the villain that starts out bad. The villain that in the beginning you hate and want to see go down. But over the course of the story, you slowly warm up to them as you discover their motivations were grayer than you thought.

You can probably name off several redeemed villains off the top of your head. They’re everywhere throughout literature. It’s not hard to see why, either. All throughout this series, my continued mantra has been ‘make your characters human’. This trope capitalizes on that by breaking through an audiences initial first impressions and changing their minds.


Remember Severus Snape? Of course you do. The mean professor who was a red herring for half of the evil doings at Hogwarts? Who likes him? 


Well... a lot of people now. Because while Snape’s actions are still incredibly problematic and he really is a pretty terrible person for taking out his anger on children who he had authority over, by the end of book seven, we see the reason behind his actions. We see some of the tremendous good he has done through the tremendous bad. And we soften to him.


A lot of the villains I’ve talked about in this series get their redemption too. Lots of baddies from Once Upon a Time and Avatar the Last Airbender get their redemption (We’ll talk about Zuko in the spotlight). They have an arc that eventually leads them back to the good side. None of them start out evil, so they don’t have to end evil.

The key to pulling off a good redeemed character is to know where they’re going from the get go. That way you can smooth the transition and plan for it. You can add hints even at the beginning that your villain isn’t all bad. You don’t want a redemptive arc to just pop out of nowhere or it feels cheap and disingenuous. The result shouldn’t make the reader think, ‘what?’ It should make the reader think, ‘Of course! How did I not see the signs?!’

What’s so wonderful about this trope is it truly plays off the complexities of human nature. All human beings have a dark side, and some let it take over more than others. But it’s never too late to turn back and do good. It’s a hopeful trope and probably the one I use the most in my writing. These characters, the redeemed villains, are my absolute favorites in any given series. Because they make me so happy when they get back on the right path.


Thanks for reading. See you for the villain spotlight on Friday!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Villain Spotlight- Ruin and Johan Liebert

This week we’re looking at two terrifying, malevolent and very different Lucifer figures.

The first, Ruin, from the Mistborn series, is more typical of a Lucifer figure. For one thing, he’s actually a god, one who delights in destruction and chaos. He is also a master manipulator, able to pull strings without anybody noticing. His presence can be felt through every page of the series even before you know he EXISTS. I don’t want to spoil too much about him because he’s kind of incredible, but he is genuinely terrifying and utterly without mercy or human ties.

But he does keep to the shadows. The books rightly focus on his deeds and his subtle manipulations rather on him until the end of book three. Still, you’ll be hard pressed to find a greater presence than Ruin in these books, or a more malevolent one. Just when you thought you understood the real threat… you really had no idea.

Really though, why hasn’t everyone read these books?


The second villain is more atypical. For one thing, he might not actually be pure evil. Maybe. The show makes it unclear. And for another thing, he is a constant presence throughout the show Monster.
I’m talking of course about Johan Liebert. While Johan uses his fair share of other people to do his work, he’s perfectly content to carry it out himself. He’s a silver tongued devil in the disguise of a charming young man and everyone trusts him to a fault. No one is aware they are being duped until its too late.

But Johan is pretty constantly on screen. He takes up a huge chunk of the show, and only the golden hearted Tenma, the main character, has more screen time than him. It would be easy to make a villain like this so ridiculous and cheesy.

And yet… God, he works so well. I’ve talked about him before in my review of Monster and raved about him being one of the best villains in anything ever. And I mean it. There are very few villains who have matched his malevolence with any success. I highly recommend the show if you like psychological thrillers.

So there you have it. Two villains who take the crown for evil. Pretty dark stuff if you ask me. But let’s start climbing out of the pit. Next week we’re taking a look at The Redeemed villains, and after that, at the suggestion of a reader, I will be starting up a heroes series to look at the many shades of heroes.

Until then, happy writing!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Villains and Villainy- The Lucifer Figure

Hello and welcome back to the villain series where we’re tackling the many different shades of villainy and honoring some of the best representatives. Or… shaming them. Depending on how you look at it.

Today let’s look at the baddest of the bad. The trope that aims for hell more than any others. Yep, I’m talking about the Lucifer figure.


The devil is one of those things a lot of villains choose to emulate, mostly because he is the symbol of pure evil for many people. So many dark traits from this guy. He’s a deceiver and a trickster. He’s governed by pride and ambitious to a fault. He’s unrepentant and opposes all things good. A Lucifer figure is ALWAYS the big bad guy. Never a henchmen. They’re the one running the show and often the shadow on the wall, the puppeteer of all the other villains in the story.


Take Sauron for instance. We don’t see him much but we see his influence. We see the destruction his armies sew across Middle Earth. But we rarely see him or hear him speak really. It’s his presence that matters. It’s his work.


Or take Father from Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He controls the homunculi and is the driving force behind most of the wrong doings across Amestris. His servants do most of his dirty work and he rarely gets involved in the action himself (except at the end), but we feel his power none the less.
And that, I think, is the secret to pulling off a good Lucifer figure. Unlike other villains on this list, you’re not trying to make them human. If you want a straight up, pure evil, nonredeemable villain, keep them in the background.

Its easy to overplay your hand with a super evil villain and they can become ridiculous if they get too much page or screen time. But if instead you focus on the destruction of their evil, we’ll feel their presence without even meeting them. It will make them over all stronger.


Sometimes its okay to have a pure evil villain. But don’t leave them in the spotlight for too long or it will seem like you're trying too hard. Let their deeds speak for them.