What makes a good bad guy?

Recently, as my thoughts turn to planning a new book, I’ve been wondering what makes a good baddie? If you see what I mean.

In my current w.i.p. the baddie is a politician, and I suspect, he will be not so much evil as morally bankrupt. To make things right, our hero will have to manipulate things so that the politician, in getting what he wants, will unwittingly deliver justice for the goodies of the book. In so far as there are any. A bit more like real life then, even if it’s set in space.

But I do want my villain to be bad. And while you can fiddle with the circumstances and the dynamics; on their own, they don’t always make the actual being evil. So I’m trying to work out if I want my latest bad guy to be greedy and selfish and incidentally evil or whether I want to go for a full on supervillian: a being who is intelligent, pointy-brained, and who plans (and revels in) his malevolence. The first is more real, the second an absolute gas to write and great fun to hate.

To get my head around concepts and ideas of ‘evil’ versus ‘bad’ or just ‘greedy’ I have turned to current affairs. I find current affairs intensely distressing if I look them directly in the face. Even so, they seem to be even worse than usual right now. There’s nothing like a bit of economic trouble to bring out the hatred in all of us it seems.

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Here we are in a modern and supposedly enlightened world and the various peoples of The Book are still trying to kill one another with gusto – and anything else that comes to hand.

We have an organisation of people pretending to be Muslims who believe half the population is shameful and valueless. It’s better to be a goat than a woman under the Taliban. After all, even their livestock can roam freely to find food. But if the male folk in a woman’s family die, the honourable thing for her to do is stay at home and starve to death rather than go out into the world unchaperoned to buy supplies. Yes that’s how much a woman is worth to them. Nothing. Because having kids and periods makes us unclean – Lord above if ever there was a bit of biblical health and safety advice that went big time wrong it’s that bit – oh and we don’t have a cock to think with, which makes us bad. And heaven help us, the Taliban seem quite moderate compared to ISIL, the Islamic State.

And then you get Israel which has had it’s foot on Palestine’s neck for years and just. Won’t. Lift. Off.  I wouldn’t pretend to be able to fathom Middle Eastern politics, there is no knowing Who Started It because the fighting there began at the dawn of time. I’ve read enough of the The Book – Old Testament/Torah/Koran – to appreciate that. But historically, countries like Britain, America and Russia have exacerbated the problems in an already volatile area for their own gain; fanning the flames of enmity, promising everyone what they wanted and delivering it to no-one: for years. And in return we get ISIL, the Islamic State. I guess it kind of serves us right.

Then… enter the ‘Christian Right’ and holy smoke, there’s an oxymoron if ever there was one – who vilify women and single mothers, not to mention the poor. They justify the hatred-filled crap they spew as the word of God when all it’s about is power and more money for them. I thought god was supposed to be a loving father – you know, ‘love they neighbour as thyself’ and all that – not a psychopathic, vengeful shit-head. Maybe I’m wrong. It would be funny if there wasn’t an actual, realistic chance of these people gaining power in America, a country which looks, from the outside, as if the political choice is between rabidly conservative and a few steps to the right of Atilla the Hun.

And when I turn on the news and see the latest venom-filled cleric screaming spittle-flecked hatred in the name of whichever version of God they purport to believe in, I confess I feel contempt. Contempt for someone who uses their intelligence, or presence, or social standing to persuade others to maltreat people in the name of a supposedly loving god. And contempt for the brainwashed sheep who follow them.

Which is where it all starts, of course.

The minute we stop seeing extremists as human beings, we become like them. Because that’s what they’re doing to us. That’s how they can justify massacring whole towns, that’s how they can justify institutional peadophelia – selling 12 year old girls into sexual slavery because they dare to get an education: learn to read, learn to think, is peadophelia in my book. No wonder extremism is so attractive to every tinpot fuckwit with a Kalishnikov. What better excuse for violence, bullying and sexual depravity than ‘god told me to do it’? Even if it’s patently, bollocks. I really feel for the world’s quiet, moderate people of faith, who have to put up with people thinking that nutters like the Islamic State and the Christian ‘Right’ represent religion.

What the angry rationalists fail to realise is that using religion to manipulate people is a completely different from having an actual faith. I suppose that’s what a lot of the K’Barthan Series is about: that just because the extremists are in power, it doesn’t mean everyone is one. Even so, it seems that nothing is more guaranteed to make you despise and kill your neighbour than a jolly good argument as to whose philosophy you should employ to go about loving him. Weird isn’t it?

You know, I wanted to make my villain female in this next book – think Servalan out of Blake’s 7 – but, in light of the state of world affairs, I really don’t think I can. There’s enough hatred directed at us women without my making one of us a love-to-hate baddie. The saddest thing is that every time I make stuff up, on the grounds that it’s chillingly evil, I find someone, somewhere, is already doing it.

Servalan: Scary baddie from Blake’s 7 Image: from http://jasonnahrung.wordpress.com

Stepping off the soap box and dragging this back to the point, apart from depressing me profoundly what does the state of world affairs have to do with writing credible bad guys?

In a nutshell, because what current affairs show us is that contempt is the key. A good look at history is an excellent place to start if you want to analyse the subtleties of evil. All you need to do then is give your baddie a healthy dose of idealism at the expense of any practical consideration whatsoever. He doesn’t have to be all-other-beings-are-inferior-my-pawns-to-be-used-and-discarded, supervillain bad. All he has to do is believe, passionately that the ends justifies the means and forget that the populations of the nations he is playing with are actual real humans. There are many faces of evil and often one begets another. So you can have some seriously bad karma starting off with deeds done with good intent.

Hmm… for all his supercilious air I think I prefer the supervillain like Lord Vernon. At least he’s honest.

So, what are your thoughts folks? Who’s the baddest of the bad? Love-to-hate superbaddie or vainglorious politician. More to the point, which one do you most like to see in books?

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I am now, officially hybrid… I think.

That’s right I run on oil AND gas. Sorry, no. What I mean is that the good folks at a small publisher have accepted a short story from me for an anthology. In the process of this they have sent me a publishing contract to sign and there is talk of a small remuneration, depending on sales volume. I think that does officially make me, in the proper sense of the word; with publication pending.

Which brings me neatly onto the other thing. I was looking at Chuck Wendig’s excellent blog today and he was talking about keeping your writing true. Writing who you are rather than what you think people will want. It’s a fantastic post, link to come. The gist is that you can only write for yourself, from your heart because if you write to please anyone else or to follow a trend your writing can lose its conviction. I particularly liked his take on that. Writing a book about something because everyone else has achieved success with it is like being a dog chasing a car.

‘Don’t be the dog, be the car.’

But that made me think because the biggest reason I’m self published is because I write stuff that isn’t really mainstream. I believe it has mainstream appeal but only on an incremental basis with lots of time for people to get used to the idea. And I don’t believe any publisher will take a punt on it until it’s already successful.

That’s not to say I don’t experiment with writing different stuff. My accepted story at Awesome Indies Publishing is one such. And this writing what you, yourself, would like thing, I really have no choice.

Any M T attempt at erotica would be the literary equivalent of this. Thank you http://2makeyoulaugh.blogspot.co.uk

Can I just go off on a tangent here for a minute? Do you ever wonder what writing is like for authors in other genres? I mean, say you write erotica. If you write decent erotica, presumably it turns you on – I mean, that’s what erotica is supposed to do, right? So what do you do about being in a permanent state of arousal, I mean, does it cloud your judgement? Do you end up needing a cold shower to view your work objectively. Or, when you’ve finished a scene do you just have a quick wank, while the cat looks on disapprovingly, and then move onto the next one? It’s not a question that’ll be troubling me. I quite like reading good erotica from time to time, so I did try writing it once. It was one of the funniest things I have ever written but, unfortunately, in absolutely the wrong way.

So for the moment, I’ll carry on writing Bond meets Adams (but without the spies) and see what happens.

Right now, I see what I’m doing as positioning12052012068.

It’s as if I’m leaving my stuff, with artful, care on the bank of the mainstream. To start with there’s just one corner in the water. I imagine the paper waving about in the passing current but each papery wave represents a minuscule tug towards the water. Slowly but surely (I hope) the current pulls it down the bank, tiny, tiny nth of an inch at a time. There’ll be more of it floating in the water now, semi submerged, gently slipping further out into the stream as the current draws it in. Then, it’ll be hanging there for a few seconds, with nothing more than a fraction of the corner stuck to the side until… oops yes it’s floating away and everyone’s a bit surprised because although it’s waterlogged and moving a bit slowly, and shouldn’t really be there, it hasn’t sunk.

Er yeh… That’s the way I see my books inveigling themselves into popular culture. But no-one is going to risk picking up my work and chucking it in until at least some of it has been proved to float on its own. So getting the mini-est publishing deal feels as if well… it’s probably not sliding down the bank yet but maybe a couple more pages have gone in.

Sure, one answer to this question might be to write something that has broader appeal. Perhaps one day I’ll manage it. But if I want to write with conviction I have to write what I write. I know there are many multi-genre authors who would regard that as unprofessional of me, so it is a huge relief to find the particular approach I use endorsed by Mr Wendig. You can find his post, which really puts it very well, here.

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Blogging Off Piste and Visiting the Real World.

Yes, another kindly soul has let me loose on his blog. If you don’t follow the Story Reading Ape then you really should. He carries news, views and information for indie authors on his blog (as well as bananas). Today, I’ve bent his readers’ ears about my books, which I have a rather egocentric tendency to do, given the chance. A lot.

As usual the rest of the blog is a lot more interesting than my bit so I can recommend checking it out. ‘My’ bit is here.

Also, a quick reminder to anyone in the Diss, Norfolk area on Saturday that the kind souls at Diss Publishing Bookshop will be letting me lurk on their premises between 11.00 and 1.30 on Saturday – this Saturday that ever was – and devaluing my books by scribbling in them. I’m looking forward to it but also a little bit nervous. If they’ve been kind enough to put their faith in me I am keen to repay it by selling some books.  Anyway, for more about the signing, click here.

 

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Cover reveal! Latest Windemere instalment from Charles E Yallowitz.

My blogging friend, Charles E Yallowitz is revealing his latest book cover today. Woot! Hereit is, along with details of the series.

Debuting August 8th on Amazon Kindle!

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Swords will clash and spells will fly in the newest adventure of young warrior Luke Callindor, Nyx the magic-flinging caster, and their friends.

With Sari captured by their enemies, the champions of Windemere are determined to get her back and destroy the Lich’s castle. Little do they realize, their battles in the Caster Swamp are only the beginning of this adventure. Trinity and her Chaos Elves have invaded the city of Gaia in search of a relic called the Compass Key. Rumored to be the key to rescuing Sari from a magical island, our heroes are in a race to find the mysterious relic.

Which side will claim the Compass Key? And, what will our heroes do when they’re faced with an enemy whose evil power overshadows anything they have ever faced?

About the Author:

Charles author photo B&WCharles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: Legends of Windemere
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz

Read the Previous Volumes of Legends of Windemere!!!

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen (CLICK FOR AMAZON SITE)

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen (CLICK FOR AMAZON SITE)

Cover by Jason Pedersen

Cover by Jason Pedersen (CLICK FOR AMAZON SITE)

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen (CLICK FOR AMAZON SITE)

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen (CLICK FOR AMAZON SITE)

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen (CLICK FOR AMAZON SITE)

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen (CLICK FOR AMAZON SITE)

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Are you talking to me pal?

Is staring at something you’re trying to find for ages, without seeing it, a super power? I don’t know but it’s probably the closest I’ll get.

Does he have a better short-term memory than I do? Very probably.

You can read some wittering about that and other ideas in this week’s bit of light fluff. It’s an interview  over at Katherine’s Corner. Yes, I’ve been bending someone’s ear again. This one is part of an ongoing series of author interviews comprising two sets of questions; one frivolous and one sensible. The author being interviewed has to answer both, although in my case, there’s not really much difference between the two. You can find some witty and interesting answers from other authors on the blog here and you can read my attempts at the end of the links below.

Sensible

Frivilous

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Is your life a French farce too?

For some years now, I’ve been convinced that my life is extra specially eccentric. This could be down to my personality, or it could be a matter of perception but things didn’t start too well this week, because I left my phone in Scotland. Then… well… let me share my Wednesday afternoon with you.

Wednesday is market day in Bury. It’s also one of my three days a week at the gym. This Wednesday, I also went for coffee with some of the other mums after the school run. After trogging round town to various stores – McMini’s party is coming up so I was buying party bag stuffing as well as the usual stuff I got home, hid the plastic bag full of McMini party kit, had a quick shower, did a bit of writing, ate my lunch and decided to leave for school pick up half an hour early so I could drop into Waterstone’s and speak to the YA manager about my new book releases.

That’s when I realised I didn’t have my wallet.

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Oh.

It wasn’t in my bag either.

No worries, I remembered I’d put it in with the shopping because there have been purse thefts recently and I usually keep it in a pocket on the outside of my bag, well, rucksack (I have a small child, I am doomed to carry a rucksack so I can jemmy in all the mountains of shit required for managing a small child through the trials and tribulations of every day existence; snacks, plasters, wipes, sting stick, calpol sachets etc). I checked all the bags I’d had my shopping in, including – a real high point – the one in the wheelie bin.

Nothing – which was, kind of, a relief in the case of the bag in the wheelie bin because I’d emptied Harrison’s litter box into it – but all the same.

Oh.

So I had a think. The last place I’d gone was the gym. I rang.

No wallet.

Oh.

So there was only one thing for it. I must have dropped it. I consulted my watch. Half past two. OK, where was the cat? Out. Right so I needed to get him in first. No wait, I didn’t. First I needed to check in the garage round my bike. I got the electric bipper to open the door and went out into the street, closing the garden gate behind me.

No wallet.

Oh.

Our garden is walled all around and the gate is about 7ft. As I closed the garage I realised I’d locked myself out of the garden. I’d have to climb in. Except that I don’t have as many knee ligaments as other people and I was a bit worried about the 7ft drop from the top of the wall to the ground below. After an energetic work out at the gym the knees didn’t feel up to it: neither did the rest of me.

Ah. Hang on. The garage has two windows at the back. Both festooned with cobwebs and probably cemented shut with stour but they are there, nonetheless. So I went back in and I tried to open the less cobweb covered of the two. It wouldn’t budge.

Bollocks.

OK, let’s call that Plan B. Back to over the wall. I cast around and found a small plastic garden toy thing which McMini loved as a toddler. I put it by the fence and climbed up.

No. I decided. Not a wise move to go over there.

I put it in front of the gate.

No. I wasn’t going over there either.

I tried using a log against the window frame and hitting it with another log. It wouldn’t budge. It must be locked.

Ping! An idea dawned. I tried the other window. It was unlocked and it opened. Flaming typical. Never mind. I was in. I broke my way through the cobwebs and dropped into the garden below with the agility and grace of a heffalump tripping over a rock. Looking at my arms I realised my journey through the window had transformed me into the cobweb yeti. Another shower required tonight then to wash them out of my hair. I tried to brush them off but they clung to me determinedly.

Ho hum. Never mind. I was in the garden now, even if I looked as if I’d been down a derelict coal mine. I got the keys, opened the gate and then put the primary coloured child toy away again. I double checked that there was no sign of my wallet on or around my bike.

There wasn’t.

Balls.

That meant I must retrace my steps to the market to see if I’d dropped it. That meant I must find the cat and put him indoors and that meant I didn’t have much time. I couldn’t leave him. He’s only 4 months old and the other feline visitor to our property, Big Vern as we now call him, tends to drop by in the afternoons. Big Vern is a real Ray Winstone of a cat. More of a tabby panther. I don’t want him and Harrison to fight if I’m not there to split them up.

After chasing the very over excited and skippity kitten round the garden for 10 minutes – this is a brilliant game Mummmy! I want to play it forever – I realised I wasn’t going to catch him. However, another five minutes bouncing a ping pong ball on the patio and he was there, ready to play. I threw it into the house and when he ran in after it, slammed the door and locked it. Time was running out. It was nearly 3 o’clock, and that’s when I have to leave to get McMini. I got my bike and cycled up to the gym. I checked where I lock the bike up and asked in a cafe nearby.

Nothing.

For fuck’s sake!

I cycled up the hill and as I got towards town remembered that the party shop was a little further from the market. That was the last store I visited so I went there. They didn’t have my wallet and it wasn’t anywhere near there. But going there did jog my memory. I hadn’t checked all the bags, because I’d forgotten to look in the hidden one from the party shop, which probably contained my wallet, but now it was too late to go home and check. So I went along to the school, picked up my boy and in the end he went to the park with a friend and her Mum. I cycled home and, as predicted, I found my wallet in the hidden bag.

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So as you can see, I bring a lot of shit on my own head (not to mention stour, cobwebs and potential for injury in this instance). Never let it be said that I don’t make life interesting for myself. I put the washing out, while I was there and then went back to the park to pick up my boy. Naturally I didn’t make it to Waterstone’s.

So if anyone else out there has a the kind of short term memory that would make a goldfish laugh, this is just to let you know that you aren’t alone. And hey… it makes life interesting and I am proof positive that you can successfully organise the odd thing, in spite of yourself. Er hem.

Finally, moving on to more important stuff Few Are Chosen, K’Barthan Trilogy: Part 1 – and also myself – get a shout out from Island Editions’ Reading Recommendations spot, or at least, got, yesterday. So here it is, please feel free to have a look, there are some fine books recommended on the site and if you like it, please feel free to share. There are a lot of good folks trying to help us indies and sharing, liking and generally appreciating their efforts is the way we can thank them. It also helps bring them more traffic, better search engine rankings, higher visibility on facebook etc.

So if you want to pop over to look, like and share the love you can find it here.

There’s an M T McGuire book signing coming up, too. Yes, despite having the organisational skills of a butterfly with indecision I have managed to arrange something. Try not to be too amazed, even if I am. The lovely people at Diss Publishing Bookshop, in Diss, in Norfolk, will be hosting a signing on Saturday 30th August, between 11 and 13.30. I’m very excited about that. More details can be found here.

 

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At my back I always hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near…

Twenty one years ago, when I was 25 – yeh I see the smoke coming out of your ears as you do the maths – a good friend from University was killed in an air crash. She was lively, fun and when we graduated – in the middle of a deep recession – she was one of the few people I knew (I was the other one) who didn’t carry on and do a Masters Degree (no chance of a job so I may as well get another qualification) or just take one look at the job market and do law. Never one to conform, was Sharon, she started to design and make jewellery, instead. I signed on as a temp with a firm of contract cleaners – not quite in the same league. You can see who had the get up and go there can’t you, phnark, but I digress.

Her death had a profound effect on me.

When I heard about the air crash I knew I was going to have known one of the victims. It was almost with a sense of inevitability that I read the huge profile about her in the Times, as one of the most poignant losses. I never got to say goodbye to her. I spent her funeral stuck in a traffic jam on the M6. I got to the wake, spent 20 minutes apologising to her parents for not being there and drove back to London, never to see them again.

But even now, I think about her a lot. I doubt there’s a week goes by when I don’t. I also think about two other friends I lost recently, one of whom was just 60 and the other of whom was a year younger than me. In conjunction with Sharon, I also remember one of my Grandfathers. He died a few years before she did but at the end when he was living in a home, he talked a lot, and with urgency, about a friend of his who’d died when they were both 25. My Grandfather said how he still missed his friend and I remember thinking how deeply it must have affected him and later, when Sharon died in my 25th year, that it was almost as if he knew.

And why am I talking about this cheery subject on the day I launch my book?

Well, because I’ve just been reading this post here, and while I was reading it, a few ideas that have been scattered about my brain finally came together. Because quite a few people have asked me, recently, how come I just do stuff, like writing books. When I answer that it’s impossible for me not to it raises the question, what’s driving me on? After all, I can’t produce books fast enough to be viable to a publisher. I don’t know anyone in the publishing industry either. Commercially, I’m flogging a dead horse. My answer is always, because I have to but I think in some weird way, I’m also doing it for my lost friends. It’s as if I have to live a fuller and more vibrant life for their sakes, in a celebration of who they were and because they no longer have the chance.

I guess we all think we’re going to live forever. And there’s nothing like somebody one’s own age dying to give one a cold slap in the face with reality. We’re not. So I do stuff, because I want to do it before I, too, shuffle off my mortal coil and I do it NOW because tomorrow may be too late, as I have seen from the experience of my friends.

That’s why I keep writing when there’s little commercial point. Why I spent a good 13 years trying to work out how to write a book and why I spent another six chipping away at the K’Barthan Trilogy. I also believe I should make the best job of my work that I possibly can. That’s why I’ve spent ages agonising over each word, splurged on editors, pestered kindly souls to beta read it and bought fabulous covers (well I think they are).

Today’s piece of sage advice, then, is this.

Follow your dreams peps. Do it for yourself and for the people who can’t. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Take life by the bollocks and run with it. Find something you want to do and do it. If you can’t find something you want to do have fun trying out the things you might want to do. Don’t wait for the right time to start. The time will never be right, it’s not in the nature of life. Don’t wait for a future you have no guarantee of seeing. The only way to make your dream come true is to take that first step. Just begin.

And trust me all that time eating snail and tortoise dust will be worth it for this moment, when you know that it’s done. And it feels… amazing. Really. Trust me. You want some of this. Make a start.

Oh… and did I tell you I had a book out today? More on that story, and links to buy, here.

Or buy it on Amazon here

CoverLookingForTrouble

Back cover, Looking for Trouble.

Back cover, Looking for Trouble.

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