author C.C.Cole's blog

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On Alternative Creative Challenges

As we new authors face the many challenges of creating our work and obtaining readers, when I think of others seeking creative outlets through other means, I don’t believe any of us have an easy journey.  While I don’t know as many artists and sculptors as I’d like, I have featured the upcoming rock band “Ernie’s Denial” a couple of times, and am featuring an update today. 

For the easily offended, I’ll make note early of the word “Bitch” in the Dave Grohl cover song, but considering the hardships of this industry, it seemed to fit.  Think about it:  though music can be recorded anywhere, (bathrooms, etc) distribution is still a major challenge, and it’s practice, practice, practice for those guys in garages, in the woods, in basements; anywhere they can plug in an amp and not get arrested for disturbing the peace.  I’ve yet to see a “Behind the Music” where a music group didn’t pay their dues somewhere getting started.  (and I can’t think about the Lynard Skynard one, I recall that plane crash, it’s devastating).  And to work and work for that record deal; that's got to be difficult. 

I’m not suggesting that writers need not practice.  But at least we can stay in the quiet and usually not write the same sentence over and over again like a musician practices instruments.  Everyone’s got challenges.  And for these guys, they keep going.  I say good for them.  These guys are for upbeat original lyrics (this is a cover song I happen to be posting), anti-bullying, and last but not least all for good times and rock ‘n roll!
How about an update, fellas?

Practicing our new songs and practicing them well enough so that we can record them really well. They're different from our first set. Very different. That's how it is. We go with our musical mood and these songs have a different mood. Different color. And they have a different color from each other. In this new set. We're very eager to record them and get them out. Of course time, which is the most important factor, is sometimes not on our side. Fer works during the weekends and I can't afford to spend on a studio. Our circumstances are challenging but just like in our song "Pick Up The Pieces", I enjoy the challenge. Meanwhile, you can get a laugh at our jam sessions www.youtube.com/ErniesDenial. We're here and we're not going away. We love Y'All and we love you C.c. Cole. - Joe

I have to hand it to anyone trying to make it in the music industry, gotta admire their perseverance.  Keep on rocking guys!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On Dreams, Women, and Betty Dravis

As a member of the FB writers’ group Author Central, I virtually met Betty Dravis along the way a few months ago.  When groups contain hundreds of authors, as a newbie I tend to sideline and try to learn from the pros and do what I can to support and learn from my writer colleagues. 

One day I got a message from Betty telling me she would get around to reviewing my books, but was very busy.  Certainly I was grateful, and taken aback a bit because I didn’t think she knew I was around.  Like I do with all reviewers, I sent her kindle copies of my books.  With her book promotion of her own “Star Struck” I downloaded and gobbled it down it short order.  After that, I decided that one Betty book wasn’t enough; I downloaded “1106 Grand Boulevard.”  Reviews are below.
Review of “Star Struck:  Interviews with Dirty Harry and other Hollywood Icons” by Betty Dravis

“Star Struck” is a fun read by ace author Betty Dravis that to me tells the events in her life as she experienced it.  Most of us do not meet and interview famous people; therefore beyond film preferences or politics, such a meeting is aptly described as “Star Struck.”  Betty does not describe these individuals as better than anyone else, it’s the meeting and talking with them on a conversational level brings home part of how these people became famous in the first place.  From Mr. Clint Eastwood, to Senator Kennedy to Jane Russell, this is a great look at the famous from a non-tabloid viewpoint that I found refreshing.  Five Stars!

Review of “1106 Grand Boulevard” by Betty Dravis

“1106 Grand Boulevard” by Betty Dravis is a biographical account of Billie Jean, a lovely girl married young during the Depression, and the reader travels her life with her, as she experiences early domestic violence, loss, family support, and a trail of heartbreak and broken hearts, while at the same time a hearty dose of laughter.  Billie Jean isn’t perfect and doesn’t pretend to be, and like many of us, it takes a lifetime of experiences to figure out what she really wants in life; but that’s the message; the journey is what life is all about.  This is a wonderful read with almost every issue especially important to women:  Marriage, children, divorce, independence, domestic disturbances, and forgiveness fully addressed leaving the reader with a smile.  Five Stars!

Women’s issues do not eclipse men’s issues, but the emphasis regarding books and films tends to be different.  Not that it’s all exclusive; I’ve known several men that secretly (very secretly) voice a liking to Lifetime films, and I like Tom Clancy and “Fight Club.”  But women are often mothers, and as mothers, they love their children and the fathers of their children play a great part of the lives of many women, be it for better or for worse.  Also, with my sister’s death due to domestic violence as my springboard to my writing journey, that’s an important topic to me personally.  As an admirer of many genres, Women’s Literature, fiction or non-fiction, remains a standby favorite to read, though it’s not a genre that I write.  While I don’t consider myself an oracle of any type, I don’t see Women’s Literature leaving the publishing industry anytime soon.

One does not need to spend much time on amazon to find Betty Dravis, who has reviewed well over seven hundred books!  (With me at now forty-nine, I doubt I’ll catch her).  Not only has she shared her experiences and has reached out to many new authors, she knows somewhere along the line, everyone that has a dream needs someone to push them a notch forward.  That’s what Betty does; she doesn’t need to prove herself to anyone as an accomplished journalist and writer.  This is her way of giving something back, she’s giving we new authors a chance at our dream, and may her many days be blessed.

On Non-Human Characters

As I continue to ponder about every aspect of writing except punctuation, my previous article on supporting characters moved me on to thinking about non-human characters.  As a Dark Fantasy writer and reader, these characters are the favorites of many readers, from paranormal vampire romance to comic books to horror novels to fairy tales, and to my genre, medieval dark fantasy.

Why are these characters so important in our genre fictional stories?  It depends on how the writer chooses to use them and like supporting characters, almost “anything goes” with non-human characters.  They can be main or supporting, protagonist, antagonist, or neutral (neutral characters to me are the biggest challenge to write).  But whatever their place is, the same standard goes along with human characters; beauty, compassion, and loyalty seen often in protagonist and less attractive, sometimes amoral antagonists, with a pretty one pitched in to keep things interesting. 

Good vs. evil is a concept that stands very powerful in our minds; therefore, when we add either superhuman or non-humans to our world we enhance the concept to drive the message home.  Usually non-human characters in many stories still have human traits, and having them blend in as a greater power makes them all the more interesting, because the reader may/may not know a great secret the other characters don’t know.  But not all non-human characters need be powerful; sometimes they carry great wisdom and serve as a mentor.

For anyone that’s read my novellas, it’s obvious that I’m comfortable in my non-human character zone.  Shevata isn’t human but is working on it, and the characters surrounding her are not human; thereby making a difficult barrier if she is to put her weapons away forever and become a loving housewife and mother.  For her, it will take a while.  After she’s done with the numerous non-human characters.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

On the Other Characters

Erika in "Underworld"
Some of my early critiques of my novellas were about my supporting characters; that they didn’t stand out enough as individuals and didn’t have enough to do.  I don’t argue with this; my stories are not epics; therefore, the cast of developed characters is tight.  But what is the function of supporting characters?

Supporting characters, by definition “support” the main character, to state the obvious.  Sometimes supporting characters steal the show, especially in films.  Often we see someone in stories to be “the girl” or “the wife” or “the family” of the main character.  These characters help ground the main character and make he/she more believable, especially, but not limited to mainstream literary works, such as murder mysteries or legal thrillers.  The classic cliché is the potential endangerment of the beloved family, thus challenging the protagonist to his/her fullest potential, risking it all for those loved most.

But supporting characters do not have to be sidekicks, assistants, or comic reliefs to main characters.  I like supporting characters that tilt the story one way or another.  In good writing, to take a character with a small part do a big deed that turns the whole story to me is bigger than the main character carrying the entire load.  Another way to put it is to have the supporting character be the “wild card” whose actions affect the actions of the main character.  These smaller roles may/may not be protagonists either, many may have plans of his/her own and “help” the main character for selfish/noble means.

I do get concerned with the number of characters, and take note when reviewers state confusion that I may have too many of them.  After reading George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” my worries of too many characters are long passed, but it’s true that every character does need to serve a purpose in the story regardless of brevity.  While I believe the rule stands about the audience must lock into the main character on some level, the supporting characters, when used well, make a huge difference with a small part.  Now go forth, new authors, write something awesome with great supporting characters, and tweet us about it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Review of GOTU: A Robin Marlette Novel by Mike McNeff

GOTU: A Robin Marlette Novel” is about local law enforcement sergeant Robin Marlette, unwavering in his devotion to crime fighting, devotion to his group, and devotion to his family.  His fearless approach to taking out the drug trade leads to a cascade of events that lead to the endangerment of his family requiring rescue and risk above and beyond the rule of law; the rule of love and friendship.   The action rarely stops for a few adult level scenes and some developmental dialogue, making the novel an entertaining and fast read.  While the book contains a fair number of clichés, it’s not to the point that makes the story predictable; instead it adds to the story by creating an almost perfect heavy action crime drama.  Great work, five stars!

On Strong Genders


Dark Fantasy stories often feature a protagonist or antagonist of significant strength.  When this happens, the character is often counter-weighted by a weaker character, at least in the physical sense. The one that needs protection brings out the strength and soft spot of the stronger characters. 

Many stories contain strong male and female lead and/or supporting characters, but can both genders both serve as leads?  I haven’t seen that often, especially in mainstream novels like legal thrillers or murder mysteries.  While it makes an interesting story to have a strong male protagonist and a strong female antagonist and vice-versa, can it be done and still keep the characters truly equal?  Perhaps a better question is can it be done and the characters are equal in strength, that doesn’t necessarily mean physical strength? 

We know biology.  And while we females can complain about the lack of strong female characters in stories and films (at least this female does), it’s difficult to ignore the fact that men are physically bigger and stronger.  And from a completely female-sexist viewpoint, such males aren’t so bad to look at.  While I don’t have a problem with strength in male characters, it is a cliché tried and true.

How about strong females?  To me, there’s a bit more room for extrapolation due to fewer clichés and a variety of ways to make a female “strong.”  The same could be applied to male characters, but for females, unless you’re writing a “manly woman” (Xena the warrior princess) there needs to be something the female has to give her an advantage; special abilities, as I do with Shevata, special intelligence (so not Shevata), and/or a surprise element, showing the reader that a woman is every bit as capable of bravery as any man.

Can a woman be tougher than a man and both are protagonists?  I think so, and so do my readers.  With my recent review of “The Hunger Games” I think it’s been pointed out in bestsellers.  Though I get some criticism for not developing my male characters more, the Gastar novellas are tight, action stories about a single character whose actions are inspired by the supporting characters around her.  My mom tells me Shevata always has a male sidekick.  Perhaps she’s right; a little backward spin off old “Dr. Who” episodes with an attractive female accomplice isn’t so bad.  I agree with Suzanne Collins on that particular point.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

On the Concept of Titles

Many writers write about how to title books and name characters.  I do find most of these articles helpful; as when I completed my first novella “Act of Redemption” I found myself struggling with character names and stumped with a title.  On a radio show I was asked how I came up with the name Shevata (shee-VAH-tah). I said what was I going to call her, “Barbara, Stacy, or Linda?”

A similar mindset for me went to the title.  “Act of Redemption” was I grasping at a title after I wrote the first draft, and after several content-edits, not a single editor had an issue with the title and commented favorably every time, therefore I went with it.  While I struggled with the title, I knew I didn’t want to name it simply “Gastar.”  Though it makes since to name the city, and many stories are named in this manner, I preferred it as a series title to a book title.

Some writer-experts recommend conceptual titles, like “Act of Redemption” or “Game of Thrones” (that’s me at 3am having the gall to mention my book with Martin’s in the same sentence, it’s rare).  It’s understandable that a title using a concept would be more appealing, but to me is more difficult and could sway one way or the other to a potential reader what the book is about.  For example, when my wayward first publicist sent my book to a fundamentalist religious group because of the word “Redemption” in the title.  Obviously, as I wrote in the past, that was an epic-disaster.  I like conceptual titles and use them, but I’ve learned the hard way to use them carefully.

What about writers using good old-fashioned nouns as titles?  There may be less mystery, but there’s also less confusion.  For example, M.R. Mathias’ “The Sword and the Dragon.”  Hey, this book must be about a sword and a dragon.  Not much mystery, huh?  But that can be advantageous, because the title identifies the genre and the general content of the book.  Another clever simple title to me is “Bushfire” by Paul Anthony.  He leaves a bit of mystery there; something’s on fire, it’s an international crime novel, and only a few seconds of thinking tie together ‘bush” and “fire” one quickly sees unhappy drug dealers low on product. 

As for titles, in the long run, I think of them like I do character names.  When I chose the name Shevata, I practiced something in my house.  (I really did this, in case anyone thinks I’m weird, it’s certified now).  I named my coffee table “Charlie.”  When I dusted it, removed my husband’s computer from it, I called it “Charlie.”  After about a week, it stopped being a coffee table and became “Charlie.”  That’s what happens to me with titles and character names.  Whatever you name them, that’s who your characters become and what your story becomes.  Regardless, a title chosen by the author is every bit as part of the story as the story itself, so a memorable story makes for a memorable title.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

On Hunger, Hype, and Harm

Finally I finished “The Hunger Games,” the bestseller, widely acclaimed, widely sold, widely hyped novel, with an upcoming more widely hyped film in the next few weeks.  Considering that this is one of the first downloads in my kindle back when the devices cost three times more than they do now, I’ve only now brought myself to finishing it.  It’s been so long I can’t recall what sparked my interest, probably something from Twitter.  I put it down at least twice, but finally, I gave this bestselling book the chance any bestseller deserves.  I will exclude spoilers, considering the upcoming film.

With my typical last-to-hear the biggest news, I solicited a few YA book reviewers for my first novel “Act of Redemption.”  A young lady emailed me informing me of her disinterest because she couldn’t stand any more dystopian fiction.  Hmm…I thought.  More dystopian fiction?  Whatever could she mean by that?  I re-read the back cover of my own book, describing the fallen city of Gastar.  Uh-oh.  Am I unoriginal?  I see more discussion of dystopian fiction in social networking.  What am I missing?  Ah, now I know.  “The Hunger Games.”  Slick move, C.C!  Though my own series follows a different storyline, I can see how one would read a synopsis and think “Hunger Games Redux.” 

The reviews of “The Hunger Games” are interesting.  One reviewer on amazon stated if anyone puts this book down, then the reader is a corpse.  Wow.  I put it down twice.  Corpse, huh?  Might be a new look for me.  That’s like a newspaper that said author Jonathan Franzen could tell the future.  One’s got to love the enthusiasm, but this kind of hype elevates expectations to the point audiences sometimes get turned away.  I like favorable reviews as much as any writer, but to demean other readers if they don’t worship it doesn’t do as much a favor as pointing out the message of the author’s work.

“The Hunger Games” is not a bad book; and honestly, I’ll say it’s a good book; to me it’s overall four stars.  It features a heroine named Katniss, whose bravery shines throughout the story, eclipsing her male almost-love interests.  The society has groups of people divided into districts that must go out and hunt for food, and if selected, the young ones, compete against each other televised, called “The Hunger Games.”  The action speeds up toward the ending, (thank goodness, got it the fourth star from me), gives the reader some surprises and innovation by the characters, and leaves the reader with interest for more, as would be favorable in a series.

A critical reviewer who gave it three stars had the same complaint I had:  Why did the society do this?  Is this futuristic society just mean and enjoy watching kids kill each other as entertainment?  What happened to the acting industry?  It’s also clichéd a bit; the dystopian world is the end product of ill-fated deeds of a prior civilization (never seen that since Planet of the Apes.).  The reason I believe I put it down so many times is that, to be fair to Collins, some horrors people really don’t want to face; such as serious food shortages and eating entrails of animals.  People in some parts of the world still live this way, and Collins reminds us of this in her work and makes us appreciate what we have.

So readers, check out “The Hunger Games.”  If you can get through the first couple of chapters, then the rest is a smooth, good read.  I’m curious about the film and may check it out.  Comparatively, amongst bestsellers I’ve reviewed, is it better than George R. R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones?”  Martin’s work is a massive epic, Collin’s is a story, and so I consider them different types of books.  Yes, Martin hits it out of the park, but Ms. Collins is no shabby writer.

On the Value of Entertainment

"Raiders of the Lost Ark"

Following a typical argument with my older brother (whose personality is known as Zermon in my Gastar novellas) I began to think about the entertainment industry.  Like many others, he gets frustrated with high profile celebrities using their recognized faces and voices to enter our homes to “teach us something,” as if we little people can’t figure important issues out for ourselves, such as current events.

My counter-argument with him is the same one I have regarding the lives of writers:  People have their work and their lives; one doesn’t always overlap.  Let’s pull away from entertainers for a moment:  Have any of us ever worked with a competent colleague but disagreed with him or her regarding some topics?  Does opinion of world events impact a person’s ability to do their profession, be it software salesperson, auto mechanic, plumber, doctor, or hair stylist?  I don’t think so.  Why would it be different with entertainers?  Answer:  Because they’re given a public voice.

Now let’s move to why entertainers are given such a large voice.  Generally, they are respected for the work they’ve done in the industry.  Because so many see them via films or television, they are a ready-source for something newsworthy, be it about their life or their opinion.  All the media has to do it attach their face or voice/quote to the story, and presto, ratings and sales!  Ask the tabloids; they’ve made good livings off entertainers for decades.

Thanks to the media and perhaps attention seeking by some (not all) of we see the lives of entertainers:  The designer wardrobes, the Vogue spreads, the mansions, the private jets, and the red carpet events.  The beautiful people, as many say, smile for pictures for us to choose who wore which dress the best.  They’ve got it all, the success, the respect, the money, the clothes, what else could one want?  Are celebrities overvalued? Perhaps.  Are they overpaid?  Perhaps.  Is this an easy life?  I’m not convinced it is; because after so many millions of dollars, one can buy, buy, buy, but some of the most important things in life cannot be purchased:  Love, friendship, and privacy. 

And there it is; we value entertainment.  Our eyes are drawn to entertainers because we like what they do in the industry in which they work.  We respect their talent. We like their films, and we enjoy their songs, we are drawn to their beauty.  Guess what new authors:  we are part of the industry as well, though, speaking for myself, I’m a quantum in comparison (quantum being the smallest unit of measurement). 

When all is said and done, to whom do the beautiful people answer to?  Answer:  The same people we authors answer to; our audiences.  J.K. Rowling would not be rich and famous if her audience did not purchase the “Harry Potter” books.  The entertainment industry is a tough one, because nobody stays on top and at one time or another their audience will speak back to them.  Entertainers walk on hazardous ground if perceived to be condescending to their audience.  Ask fans of country music or daytime television.  Facing a public downfall with a merciless media cannot be an easy experience.  I think about that on vacations; the only time I ever pick up a “Star” magazine.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Radio Moment: The Sean and Simon Show

It’s always fun to meet younger people with the enthusiasm only youth can produce.  It’s not that growing older is a bad thing (though I miss my young hair), to me it’s like a microscope:  When we’re young, we focus with the broad lens, and as we learn through years and life experiences, we re-focus into narrower details, and if we’re fortunate enough to become wise, (wishful thinking on my part) we’re in oil immersion (for my microbiology friends out there) for the greatest magnification.

Now I’d like to hand my blog space over to a couple of good fellas, with youthful passion regarding world events, humorous dialogue, great music, and an all-around good time.  

And, as an American from the Deep South, I love their accents.

First of all, I would just like to say thanks so much for this opportunity C.c! We appreciate it!   You're most welcome, guys!

What is your show's name?
We are ‘The Sean and Simon Show.’ We have 2 weekly podcasts (‘Squeezebox’ and ‘Fill Me In’) which can be found on our YouTube channel- http://www.youtube.com/user/TheSeanandSimonShow?feature=mhee and we have a live broadcast once a week on http://www.nusu.co.uk/nsr Thursday 12:10-13:30

What is your show's focus (entertainment, news, entertaining news, etc)
‘Squeezebox’ is primarily a comedy show, with several funny features which mainly pit mine and Simon’s debating skills against each other in an entertaining way.

‘Fill Me In’ is a more topical show, drawing on the idea that we aren’t just all about comedy. We intellectually debate and discuss issues, which we feel are important in today’s world. We aim to make ‘Fill Me In’ come across as an intellectual show; however, we still include elements of satirical comedy to lighten some of the heavier discussions.

Our radio show is much like a toned down version of ‘Squeezebox’ with music. We include comical features to entertain the listeners as well as some of the best tunes the world has ever seen. FACT. We try to keep it at around a 50/50 split, but we love the sound of our own voices so much, we may revise this in the future!

When did it start?
We had the idea for the show many months ago. We first intended it to be just the radio broadcast. However, upon recording the demo (which can also be found on the YouTube channel), we gathered momentum and gained a lot of support. We decided to start the podcasts in the event that the radio didn’t have a space for our show- as it goes, they did, and now we have both.

Who's on board with you?
Well of course, as a duo, we have a lot of family members and friends who are interested. However, I was really astounded to see quite a few people who we had lost touch with in the past be really supportive and get involved. It’s really opened my eyes as to who my real friends are. Everyone’s been really great though; my family, The Collaborates and even some friends who I would have least expected.

Have you done radio/video before?
My only experience of something like this was the ‘EmWrites Team Tumblcast’ that was done for the promotion of an author a while back.

Where would you like the show to go long-term? Say a year from now?
Personally, I would be very interested in doing radio as a career, but I know Simon isn’t. However a year from now we would like to have an established weekly show with many more listeners and fans! It would be great to have a bit more involvement in the student radio as well.

What's your favorite topic?
My favourite feature is ‘Squeezebox’s- Make Simon Laugh’. There have been mixed reviews on Simon’s laugh, but I find it hilarious. What I love even more is the articles and stories I find to make him laugh each week! I really like the contrast between ‘Squeezebox’ and ‘Fill Me In’ though. Whilst we may come across silly in ‘Squeezebox’, ‘Fill Me In’ allows us to demonstrate that we aren’t brain dead and just looking for laughs. We genuinely are opinionated folk with the education and intellect to back it up. Furthermore they both appeal to different audiences, so, much like our personalities, we don’t alienate anyone who is interested in our shows.

Are you featuring guests?
Haha! This is something all my friends keep asking me. We hope to in the future, but initially, we want to provide our audience with consistency and familiarity. Ironically, I think this is what encouraged the reformatting of the show after episode 1. We wanted to provide the listeners with a solid format which balanced durability with entertainment. I reckon we nailed that by epidode 2 for now, anyway.
A weekly show of juvenile comedy and petty debate, with an eclectic mix of our (and your) favourite music. Email seanandsimonshow@hotmail.co.uk Website http://theseanandsimonshow.tumblr.com/

Thursday, February 16, 2012

On Children in Dark Fantasy

"Pan's Labyrinth"

As I wrap up the launch of “Every Child is Entitled to Innocence,” I’ve been thinking how often children are used in dark fantasy stories.  Let’s make it easier:  How often are children not in dark fantasy stories?
To be fair, dark fantasy hardly needs to include children as main characters.  Many new vampire stories contain adult themes and  “YA” is not translation into “pre-adolescent.”  Another notable way to look at the use of children in stories would be non-dark fantasy, as in “Atonement,” where seeing events through a child eyes led to tragic results. 

As I think back to my own childhood, in terms of fantasy I think of it as a time of adventure, which makes sense for inspiration for writing.  As children we see fairy tales as more than just weird creatures; it’s more real to us then than when we’re adults.  Along with a sense of adventure and imagination comes an eagerness to learn and experience new things; as children we have yet to learn the consequences of our actions that define us as we grow up. 

Childhood is also a time of great happiness.  I heard a celebrity say once “When I was a kid, I was poor, but didn’t know it.”  That struck a chord with me; I knew I was poor but it didn’t bother me.  Lots of kids are poor and it wasn’t considered anything to be embarrassed about, we were just poor.  Poor kids in the country, at least where I grew up had few interactions with wealthy kids, so there was no one to be jealous of.  Nobody at school asked me “what my Daddy did,” everyone knew everyone, so such topics didn’t come up.  Also, we make some of our closest friends when we’re kids.  I have friends today I’ve known since I started grade school.

Childhood is also a time of great sadness.  I’ve known a few people that seriously say they wish they were a kid again, but it’s not a road that I want to re-travel even if I were in a completely different situation.  There’s social awkwardness, shyness, self-esteem issues, and dealing with loss; be it a pet or a family member.  Loss is tough for kids. 

But while life can be tough for kids, let’s not forget the resilience of children.  A child can get through a sleepless night of parents fighting and go to school making straight A’s and never say a word.  Children run high fevers due to common illnesses and recover within hours.  While many kids from troubled households move on to troubled adulthoods, many others move on to happy productive lives and take care of the parents that took care of them. 

In creating dark fantasy, the experiences of childhood translate into bravery, happiness, sadness, friendship, and resilience.  All the makings of heroic protagonists stem from what is experienced in our youth. Parts of our childhoods linger with we new authors as we continue to create our stories.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Review of “Every Child is Entitled to Innocence”

“Every Child is Entitled to Innocence” is a group of brief stories, from Dr. Niamh Clune and her colleagues creating a beautiful blend of youthful experiences from various directions.   It’s a celebration of what’s great about childhood, the discovery of love and friendship, and a reminder of the difficulties about childhood, the discovery of fear and hardship.  This book will make you smile and tear up at the same time because people came forward to share their experiences in hopes to help children with the proceeds in the future.  Five stars!  


Sunday, February 12, 2012

On Character Deaths

"The Omega Man"


 "The Terminator"

In Dark Fantasy, if there’s anything that strikes the readers, it’s who will make it and who will not in the dangerous adventure.  We want to see the good guys make it and the bad guys get what’s coming.  But does it always have to be good-guy-lives and bad-guy-dies?  What about the larger message carried in many dark fantasy stories, that good is achieved only by great cost?  What characters will the writer sacrifice to make that cost?

I was talking to a reader recently who told me to stop talking and start writing my third novella in the Gastar series.  When I commented on finding out which characters make it in the series, she looked at me wide-eyed.  “Don’t mess with my fantasy.”  Then she walked off.

Hmm…as I ponder that encounter, some interesting questions entered my mind.  As we dark fantasy writers create our worlds, we are creating the fantasy of our readers.  Our stories translate into their minds, so each reader sees our story a little differently.  That makes sense when I’m reading fantasy; I get fixed in my own mind what I’d like to see happen, especially when it comes to the demise of key characters.

Protagonist deaths to me are probably some of the most difficult to write and most difficult to sell.  Who wants to see the good guys die?  But they do, and to being a dramatic element of self-sacrifice to stories, as in non-fiction, add depth and emotion.  In dark fantasy, we often see protagonists return by reincarnation, regeneration, or in another form.  Generally, killing the main protagonist requires careful crafting to keep from killing the hope of the reader.

Antagonist deaths give writers a wider breadth; sometimes they redeem themselves by giving up their lives.  Others die with the same bravery as the protagonist, not backing down even at the end to create a dramatic unforgettable scene for the reader.  Amoral antagonists deaths are what the readers are looking for, not so much the victory of the good guy, but the defeat of the bad guy, in in some creative way that makes us smile when it happens. 

So again, go forth, new authors, and create some great dark fantasy for us to enjoy.  We feel the mixed emotions of the protagonist, the respect for redeemable bad guy, the dislike for amoral characters, and hatred for turncoat traitors.  However you craft it, it’s OK.  Make we the readers feel it.  That’s what we’re looking for, so we can appreciate our return to reality.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

On Dark Fantasy Love

"Young Frankenstein"

As I ponder “Dark Fantasy” and “Love” here goes a torrent of examples one cannot hope to address in brevity.   We can go from Vampire love to Frankenstein love and not even begin to approach Ghost love, Werewolf love, or even Zombie love (is there zombie love?). 

A psychologist told me many years ago that “the opposite of love is not hate.  It’s indifference.”  When I think of my relationships in the past, I couldn’t agree more.  We want to hurt people we hate.  We actually hurt people we love.  We ignore people we feel nothing for. 

On further analysis on how love can be used in dark fantasy, there’s little variation on how one would use romantic love in any other setting.  A teenage girl falls in love with a sparkly vampire like she could fall in love with the star quarterback.  A nurse could fall in love with a doctor she works for even if he’s building a monster instead of treating patients.  Swamp monsters fall for beautiful blondes in old monster films. 

Romantic settings move our characters in ways few other emotions can; from love hate, jealousy, charm, and narcissism.  Any character, be it animal, monster, vampire, werewolf, ghost, or human is vulnerable and there are few defenses.  By developing love interests we develop the characters and show the reader what lies behind the motivations of his/her deeds, human or not.

Flipping the coin on the other side, the lack of love, meaning the amoral character, also can stand out as clear as the presence of love.  The prototype is a serial killer, but any monster that lives off the lives of others, for example, in many vampire stories (Dracula) the lack of love develops a character to the same depth when crafted against those who value life and feel love.

I’ve been criticized for not having enough love interest in my first novella of my four-part series.  But sometimes love takes time, and may arise from places unexpected to the reader.  As a writer, speaking for the joy of writing, it’s sometimes pleasantly unexpected to authors as well.