Villains We Hate To Love (Part 2)

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“I am Loki, of Asgard and I am burdened with glorious purpose…You WILL kneel before me!”

Yeah, yeah. I know they’re the ‘bad guys’. I KNOW, all right? Sheesh, stop shouting. It’s just…why did they have to be so darn awesome? The fact is, some villains are too cool for school, and although we know we’re supposed to hate them, we end up loving them instead. I’m not talking about ‘grey’ villains, ones who have redeemable qualities, who deserve understanding even if ultimately they still do All The Wrong Things. I’m talking about characters who are clearly bad to the core, but who we can’t help adoring anyway.

An example is Scar from Disney’s The Lion King. It’s hard to find a villain as delicious as Scar, voiced by the amazing Jeremy Irons. His particular brand of suave yet petty nastiness blew everyone away when the movie first came out. Scar telling Simba that his surprise is “To die for”? *shivers*

I haven’t seen the Lion King musical. But if we were casting Scar nowadays, he would have to be played by Tom Hiddleston. And speaking of Tom: Loki, in Marvel’s The Avengers. We’re supposed to dislike him – rather intensely, I imagine – but come on, that’s hardly fair! The character’s quiet yet supreme arrogance is played so beautifully by Hiddleston that Loki quickly emerged as one of the highlights of the star-studded movie.

Another character I can’t help rather liking is Bellatrix Lestrange from Harry Potter. In part, perhaps, because on-screen she’s played by the inimitable Helena Bonham Carter. But book Bellatrix is also fabulous. She definitely fits in the ‘hate to love’ camp. I think, with Bellatrix, the attraction is her completely unapologetic devotion to evil. She’s not just old Voldy’s right hand lady, she truly enjoys being horrible. With crazed giggling pleasure.

I think it’s easier to find ‘bad guys’ that we love on TV and in movies, than in books. In visual media, a dashing portrayal by a charismatic actor can be enough to make us fall for a villain, however heinous their crimes. (Hannibal Lecter, I’m looking at you.) In books, once an author starts adding charm and depth to an evil character, that character risks ending up in the ‘grey morality’ zone, where we know they’re bad but we understand their motivations and sympathize with them. Which is not really what I’m looking for here: I’m going for characters we KNOW are evil, but can’t help falling for anyway.

Take CW’s Supernatural, for instance. Over the show’s 12 seasons, the audience has embraced outright evil characters such as demon Crowley, played by Mark Sheppard, and Lucifer himself, played primarily by Mark Pellegrino. Both characters are fan favorites, and Sheppard and Pellegrino are for sure the reason behind this. In Arrow, also a CW show, recurring character Malcolm Merlyn is a slippery, self-centered jerk. But actor John Barrowman consistently woos the audience, over and over.

Sometimes I wonder what it’s like for an author or show creator when a villain suddenly takes off as a fan favorite. I imagine it goes something like this:

Fans on Twitter, Tumblr, etc: WE LOVE THIS CHARACTER.

Creators: No, they’re actually the villain, you’re not supposed to like them.

Fans: LOVE.

Creators: I don’t think you understand, see, they’re bad?

Fans: *Fan art everywhere. Make a million gifs. Write thousands of words of fan fiction.*

Creators: But…

Fans: Looooovvvveeeeeee………………..

 

 

 

 

Villains We Love To Hate (Part 1)

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A few great villains from my bookshelf

What makes The Ultimate Villain™? Now, I’m not necessarily talking about the Big Bad in a story; for instance, we all know the Emperor is the puppet master behind everything in Star Wars. (Gaaasp, spoiler alert!) But the Ultimate Villain in the original trilogy isn’t the Emperor, it’s Vader, with the all-black ensemble and the heavy masked breathing. He’s the one on all the t-shirts, the one who sells the action figures and LEGO kits. True, he had his moment of redemption at the end of Return of the Jedi, but for the majority of screen time in the trilogy, he was fabulously and unapologetically evil.

Darth Vader got me thinking about some of my favorite screen and page villains, and what makes them so fun to hate. In Vader’s case, I think his utter calm and coldness, allied with the distancing his black outfit, gloved hands, and mask produce, makes him a frightening on-screen presence from the moment he appears in New Hope showing off his Force choke.

The Narnia series was my childhood passion, and you don’t get any nastier than the witches that C.S. Lewis came up with. The scene in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe where the White Witch throws Edmund into her dungeon was one I always found chilling: Edmund trusted her (okay, he was also partially bewitched. And an idiot), and she treats him worse than dirt until he’s eventually rescued. The Green Lady in the Silver Chair was also a great villain, with her poisonous sweetness and terrible hidden schemes.

Like Star Wars, the Harry Potter series is another where side villains are often more compelling than the Big Bad, Lord Voldemort himself. Take Dolores Umbridge, for instance. (No, really, please take her, she terrifies me!) She’s tremendously effective as a villain, I think perhaps because most of us have come across that particular brand of petty nastiness at some point in our lives. A schoolteacher, a supervisor at work, an authority figure. Not someone with the power of life or death over us, just someone who can make our lives acutely miserable if they choose. The Harry Potter books have many ‘evil’ characters who we can’t help but understand, at least a little (there’s no way NOT to feel sorry for Draco Malfoy by the end of the series!), but Umbridge certainly isn’t one of those. And oh, boy, do we love to hate her.

Children’s and teen books do this sort of irredeemably nasty character very well (look at Miss Trunchbull from Roald Dahl’s Matilda, or President Snow from The Hunger Games), but even in adult fiction, you can’t have a decent fantasy or sci fi novel without a great villain. Or villains, plural. Sauron may have been the Big Bad in The Lord of the Rings, but I always particularly loathed Saruman for his backstabbing, tree-slaying, self-centered behavior. The sequence where the ents take down his fortress will always have me cheering wildly, no matter how many times I read it.

I know the trend nowadays is to have villains that readers/viewers can understand, with tragic backstories and deeper motivations that place them in a sort of moral grey zone, rather than the old-fashioned black-or-white of older stories. And I’m all for that, don’t get me wrong. It makes for a hugely compelling story. But sometimes it’s just so fun to be handed a character we’re unabashedly allowed to love to hate. So authors, producers, creators: grey zone your villains as much as you like, but please, please, please toss us an Umbridge every now and then? Go on. You know you want to.

Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes

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Oh, hey! It’s another character naming post! (And here’s one I made earlier… *gestures like chef on cooking show*)

This time, it’s about naming difficulties I ran into while working on Heart Blade.

Changing a name after a first draft is done is always tricky. A new name can change a character in unexpected ways. But sometimes, it’s unavoidable. Here are three naming hurdles I came up against while revising my novel for my publisher.

1) Sometimes the character shifts and outgrows a name. Take Alex, who first emerged from my odd little writer brain as Brother Jerome. Jerome was originally supposed to be a sort of Old Master type character. The name was perfect at the time. He’s a vampire, almost 1000 years old, and he used to be a knight in the Crusades. But Jerome insisted on, well, not being Jerome. He’s perpetually eighteen years old, ruggedly handsome in a shaggy blond, broad-shouldered-from-sword-work sort of way. He’s covered in tattoos. And despite being an honest-to-goodness monk (though ‘recently’ ordained, I should add – only a couple of hundred years ago!), his penchant for wearing jeans, black tees, and an old pair of converse sneakers under his robes were a dead giveaway that I had the wrong name.

I renamed him Alexander of York and the poor guy got a whole new lease of immortal life.

2) Sometimes a character is too close to another writer’s character with the same name. I had this problem with Rose, née Lila. I have big plans for Rose in book 2! She’s a little edgy, and a little angry, with a lot of abandonment issues to work through. Her original name was Lila, which I loved. But then a couple of my critique partners had a Lyla in a co-authored story, and after a while their Lyla began bleeding into my Lila. They’re very different characters, but there are also a few similarities, and the name just stopped working. I needed my Lila to be 100% mine. So I ditched the name. It took me forever to find a new name I liked, one that showed her as she is in Heart Blade, but could be changed slightly by Rose herself to suit who she starts to become in book 2. I won’t tell you what she renames herself – you’ll have to wait for Night Blade for that. But I’m happy with Rose, and I’m glad she’s made the name her own.

3) Sometimes everyone just hates the name you pick! My main guy, Ash, was originally called Jimmy. It made sense to me: his full name in that first version was James Arthur Deacon III, after his father and grandfather. Jimmy matched the sweetness inside him. But although – interestingly enough – the guys who beta read the story for me were fine with the name, it got a resounding NO from all my female readers. This one took me a long while to puzzle out. I still wanted the family legacy thing to go on: Ash/Jimmy carries a pretty hefty family burden on his shoulders. So I decided to keep James Deacon and change his middle name. The men in his family would all have the same first and last names, but different middle names. The catch: it had to be a bible name. Ash’s family is descended from angels and they have an important role in policing the preternatural community. I went through a gazillion naming websites before I hit on Asher, a beautiful Old Testament name that just sounded right. (Kudos to my daughter, who suggested it in the first place.) I tried it out on a few female friends and relatives and everyone agreed it was a keeper. Jimmy was out – Ash was in.

I love the three new names, and can’t imagine my characters being anything else now. And the time I spent agonizing over the changes meant time spent thinking deeply about who those characters were and what really made them tick. That’s the light at the end of that particular tunnel: once you find the right shiny new name, you’ll feel you know your character even better than you did before.

May all your character naming problems be easy to solve! And now (because how could I not!), the gentle reminder that maybe get a second opinion if you’re in doubt. Courtesy of Friends and the inimitable Phoebe Buffay.

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What’s Your Character Watching?

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Someone asked me what my Heart Blade character Alex’s favorite TV show would be, and I immediately answered Star Wars Rebels. Because clearly when you’re an immortal vampire knight who’s taken a vow to never drink blood you’re going to be all about the Jedi, right?

Of course, I immediately thought, “Blog post!” So here it is: what shows all the Heart Blade characters like to watch.

Alex is a Star Wars Rebels fan. Kanan Jarrus is his favorite character. He’s also partial to Arrow and The Flash. He once met Stephen Amell at a convention and has the photo to prove it.

Camille loves sports. She’s a Packers fan and never misses a NHL game, especially if the Canadiens are playing. She owns all seasons of Gilmore Girls on DVD and has been known to quote lines from the show.

Diana likes to escape into Once Upon a Time. She’s also a Glee fan and has all the show songs on her playlist. She plays them loud to drown out the memory of her victims’ screams.

Rose never misses an episode of Supernatural. She’s cooled down on the show a little now she knows demons and vampires actually exist, but she can’t stay away from Sam, Dean, and Cas.

Ash loves Agents of SHIELD. He’s hoping they bring Bobbi back. She reminds him of his mom. He thought Agent Carter was really cool and doesn’t get why the network cancelled it.

Del will watch everything and anything. She’s fascinated by human TV shows and feels that with her memory loss she has a lot to make up for. One of her favorite characters is Arya Stark from Game of Thrones.

Jude always tells everyone that TV shows are a waste of time. But secretly he DVRs all the Reign episodes and then marathons them all at one go over a weekend with masses of pizza and junk food.

Dan likes The Walking Dead, even though Alex teases him mercilessly about it. He feels there is something marvelously simple about a world where all humans have to fear are zombies and each other.

Deacon says he only watches sports. But anyone who frequents his house knows he always has one of those home improvement or real estate shows on in the background. He’s mildly obsessed with Tiny House Nation.

What TV shows would your favorite characters watch? Let me know in the comments!

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Heart Blade Promos!

E-BOOK PROMO:

Buy Heart Blade as an e-book for the special promotional price of 99c/99p.

Amazon

 

PAPERBACK PROMO:

The paperback should be up for sale on Amazon either Monday or Tuesday!

For those interested in the paperback, I have a special something for you…

The first 30 people to email proof of purchase of the paperback to contact.jspinkmills@gmail.com will receive a set of four exclusive Heart Blade character postcards with Corinna Marie‘s adorable artwork.

You can send me a copy of your purchase receipt email, or a screen print, or anything really as long as it shows you’ve bought the book. Don’t forget to include a snail mail address so I can mail you the postcards. They arrived today hot off the press and they look lovely.

Amazon

Add Heart Blade to Goodreads

 

VIRTUAL LAUNCH PARTY:

I have so many friends in different countries that I decided to throw an online launch party for Heart Blade. Come and join me on February 14th between 4.30-7pm EST (9.30pm Greenwich time) on our Facebook event page. Ask me questions, chat about books and writing, and take part in the Heart Blade Scavenger Hunt, which starts in the morning on February 14th, when I post up the list of items, and ends at 7pm. There will be prizes! And, of course, the glory of knowing you’re the Ultimate Heart Blade Scavenger™.

 

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Character Intro: Meet Alex

Thank you for following my character intro week! Over the past few days I’ve introduced some of my characters from Heart Blade, Book 1 of the Blade Hunt Chronicles. The gorgeous art work is by Corinna Marie and used with permission.

Alexander of York

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Alex by Corinna Marie

Alexander of York, also known as Brother Alexander, is a monk and former knight of the Crusades. Yes, Alex has been around for a while. The young English nobleman became a vampire almost a thousand years ago while he fought for King Richard the Lionheart. His sword Redemption has been his constant companion over the centuries.

 

PAPERBACK PROMO:

At the moment only the e-book is up for pre-order. Once the paperbacks go up for sale (probably on or near release date, February 14th), I’ll be running a special giveaway. The first 30 people to order a paperback copy and email me proof of purchase will win a set of four postcards with Heart Blade character art by Corinna Marie. More on this soon!

Find Heart Blade on Amazon

Add to Goodreads

Character Intro: Meet Camille

It’s character intro week! Over the next few days I’ll be introducing some of my characters from Heart Blade, Book 1 of the Blade Hunt Chronicles. The gorgeous art work is by Corinna Marie and used with permission.

Camille Darkwing

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Camille by Corinna Marie

Camille Darkwing is a French Canadian half-demon. Gifted a full demon’s blood in 1932, the petite immortal teen is often underestimated, and that’s just the way she likes it. Most half-demons feed off darker emotions, such as anger, or fear. But Camille’s Immortal Hunger is a little…unusual. Fitting: after all, Camille has always preferred to do things her own way.

 

PAPERBACK PROMO:

At the moment only the e-book is up for pre-order. Once the paperbacks go up for sale (probably on or near release date, February 14th), I’ll be running a special giveaway. The first 30 people to order a paperback copy and email me proof of purchase will win a set of four postcards with Heart Blade character art by Corinna Marie. More on this later!

Find Heart Blade on Amazon

Add to Goodreads

Character Intro: Meet Ash

It’s character intro week! Over the next few days I’ll be introducing some of my characters from Heart Blade, Book 1 of the Blade Hunt Chronicles. The gorgeous art work is by Corinna Marie and used with permission.

James Asher Deacon

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Ash by Corinna Marie

James Asher Deacon, or Ash as he’s known to his family and friends, is a seventeen-year-old sentinel, a descendant of angels. His father leads the New England Chapter of sentinels, and fully expects Ash to take over when he grows up. Ash isn’t sure he wants to serve the archaic system of laws that turned a blind eye to his mother’s death, but what else is a Scion’s son supposed to do?

 

PAPERBACK PROMO:

At the moment only the e-book is up for pre-order. Once the paperbacks go up for sale (probably on or near release date, February 14th), I’ll be running a special giveaway. The first 30 people to order a paperback copy and email me proof of purchase will win a set of four postcards with Heart Blade character art by Corinna Marie. More on this later!

Find Heart Blade on Amazon

Add to Goodreads

Character Intro: Meet Del

It’s character intro week! Over the next few days I’ll be introducing some of my characters from Heart Blade, Book 1 of the Blade Hunt Chronicles. The gorgeous art work is by Corinna Marie and used with permission.

Adeline Raven

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Del by Corinna Marie

Adeline Raven has been a half-demon for a year. Del was sixteen when she was Gifted a full demon’s blood and lost all of her human memories. The only thing she remembers is carving a message on her arm with a knife. The scarred letters that spell NEVER on her left forearm are a constant reminder to stay true to herself and never give up.

 

PAPERBACK PROMO:

At the moment only the e-book is up for pre-order. Once the paperbacks go up for sale (probably on or near release date, February 14th), I’ll be running a special giveaway. The first 30 people to order a paperback copy and email me proof of purchase will win a set of four postcards with Heart Blade character art by Corinna Marie. More on this later!

Find Heart Blade on Amazon

Add to Goodreads

 

 

Heart Blade!

Finally, the cover I’ve been teasing you all with for months. I’ve been longing to share Merilliza Chan‘s gorgeous artwork, and here it is in all its glory.

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The official reveal took place on Sunday over at SFFWorld.com; check it out for an exclusive sneak peek excerpt.

Heart Blade is now up on Goodreads, and the e-book is available for pre-order on Amazon. The paperback (yes, there’s a book-book for those who prefer it!) will be available for purchase on release day.

I have more treats coming! The talented Corinna Marie has been working on some Heart Blade character art for me, and I’ll be introducing four of my main characters on the blog over the next weeks.

E-BOOK PROMO:

The e-book version is at a special promotional US$0.99 at the moment. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the app for free onto your tablet or phone.

PAPERBACK PROMO:

For all those interested in the paperback version, I have a special promo lined up for you. Once the paperback hits Amazon, I’ll be giving away exclusive sets of postcards with Corinna Marie’s character art to the first 30 people to send me proof of paperback purchase. More on this later!

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