A 4-Star Review for Caught

A 4-Star Review for Caught

caught-front-coverWhile doing my Internet rounds, I learned I had a new review out. I always like to share those with people. Any time someone takes a minute to share their thoughts about my work is such a thrill (even the not so nice to hear comments).  Feedback is a great thing regardless of its content.

Check out the review here.

January BCOTM Finals!

January BCOTM Finals!

Here are the stats:

The Closest Contest:
Either way you look at it, the match between The Unleashed by Bentz Deyo vs Loveless by Marissa Howard was a nail biter. Howard pulled off a last minute win with just nine votes! Talk about a close call.  (NOTE: I was preparing this, and Howard came back with about 4 minutes to go. She was down by 2 with 20 minutes to go, and BOOM! Last second of last second surges.)
The Largest Victor:
Marked by Jordan-Paige Sudduth started off strong and gained a big lead on A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab, but then everything exploded. Schwab’s followers came out of the woodwork and launched this whole bracket into high gear. More than 400 votes later, Schwab earned a 164-vote victory over Sudduth.

Most Voted On Contest:
Each bracket had nearly 700 votes! It was insane, but Schwab’s match edged the other contest with 704 total votes. (The other match had 696).

The Finals last until midnight of Feb. 21. (That’s about 48 hours).

 

Please comment if there’s not enough time. I can shift things around. Given how close Deyo’s and Howard’s match was, I may have to consider that anyway. But let me know your thoughts on the finalists. Did your favorite make it?

Head over here and vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

What is it to be a Hero?

What is it to be a Hero?

My favorite thing about the blog so far is the inspiration I see from comments to older posts. I’m glad you all enjoy character studies as much as I do, and when I talked about “flawed” vs “Traditional heroes, you all gave me some great ideas.

The first idea I wanted to tackle was the idea of a hero, and what makes one heroic. I thought about this for some time, and decided it came down to sacrifice, courage, and loyalty. For my character study, I’m going to say I’d like my hero (regardless of his flaws or perfections) have all three of these if you look hard enough.

So since I have three traits, I should highlight three characters right?  Makes sense to me at least.  So without much more ado, here are three characters that I think are fantastic heroes because they exemplify these traits.  BUT as a special aside, NONE of these characters are (at least regarded) as the main character of their stories. This means Sam is out from Lord of the Rings because I honestly think  he is the hero of that book.

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All images from Pixabay because I fear copyright even when I feel I fall under fair use.

Perrin Aybara is absolutely my favorite character from Wheel of Time. Oh Rand is awesome and Mat is fun (and he has my name, so he has to be awesome right?), but Perrin’s heroics are worthy of study.  (Look, Rand is easily a hero, but he’s too easy).

Sacrifice: He didn’t sacrifice his family. He LOST his family, but that doesn’t actually make one heroic. Not in my standing anyway. Instead, what he sacrificed was the simple life he always wanted. Through the whole saga he wants his wife and a simple life. This is exceptionally heroic as most people don’t long for that, especially in fantasy. Most characters dream of adventure and discovery, but Perrin just wants to be a blacksmith. He gave that up to be the man he knew he had to be. He continued to do so even thought it cost him.

Courage: Here’s where Perrin may fall short a bit in relation to the other two heroes I cover, but he still has it. No. I’m not talking about facing trollocs or whitecloaks. I’m talking about facing a part of himself that he doesn’t like. Look anyone can face external dangers. Fight of flight kicks in, and a man has to defend himself. That’s not (in and of itself) courage. It’s self preservation. Perrin faces his identity as a wolfbrother. He’s lived his whole live taught to believe wolves are evil, and THEN he realizes he’s becoming one (or like one).  He doesn’t necessarily want to embrace this part of his life. Instead, he chooses to. He has reasons, but he doesn’t just face this part of himself out of self preservation or even to save his friends. He does so because he must.

wolf-1768913_960_720Loyalty: This is where Perrin has the title. Rand frequently puts Perrin in the most danger. He even forces Perrin to go back home to deal with events in Book 4 that Rand can’t deal with. Rand has his reasons, but Perrin never fails to support Rand. He’s the first to try and understand Rand. He’s the one who goes home to defend it. He’s the one who steps up.

Xander Harris is the only character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer who doesn’t grow into something more. Heck even Dawn gets training as a slayer. Xander is just a guy.

Sacrifice: So where Perrin has some obvious areas of sacrifice. The question, if my criteria hold up, is what did Xander give up?  This is tough because Xander is actually a pretty selfish character. Sure he LOSES people, but what does he let go of that he would have if he’d stepped away from the Scooby Gang?  I thought about it, and nearly changed characters when it dawned on me. What he gave up was any chance to be special. Most people want a chance to shine.

bat-149892_960_720Most people want a chance to be in the lime light or be seen as important. Xander happily plays third or forth fiddle to a group of people that become exponentially more powerful and unique than he is. There was an adorable episode in Season 3 where all he wants to do is help. He KNOWS something’s going on, but everyone sort of shuns him away. He also finds his power there. In that same episode he sacrifices the opportunity to be exceptional just to be a part of something greater than himself. Go watch that episode and see how he eventually turns that to an advantage. Every progressing season he stays back. He is the normal, consistent part of life for individuals that are so much more. This becomes the need he fills for the team.

Courage: This is more on the nose than I’d like. But when his sacrifice is his choice to remain normal in a paranormal world, he’s also choosing to willingly put himself in danger when he’s always out of his league. It’s different from Perrin. Perrin faces his own fears because he’s bigger and stronger. Then he gets more powerful. Xander doesn’t have those advantages. All he has is the willingness to put himself in harms way over and over again just to stay near those he loves.

Loyalty: He takes a knock here, but not a big one. Let’s put this elephant on the table. He hates Angel and wants to kill him. Maybe even still. BUT, when he CHOOSES to see good in a person, he’s untouchable. He brings Willow back. What helps his loyalty shine here is how fierce he is with it. He hates who he hates, and loves who he loves. He’s as true as the North Star, and he doesn’t shift. Even his tolerance of characters he’d rather see take a stake to the heart is based on his friends’ desire to see them protected (though again, Angel makes this hard to justify).

wizard-147663_960_720My final character is one I’m proud of myself for. This is mostly because, again, it’s easy to point out the hero of the story. They’re usually the ones on the cover. But my point is what makes a person heroic, and is it always the main character? In this case, how about Charity Carpenter from the Dresden Files.  (Love you Waldo, but you have a (INSER COPYRIGHT) as you’re a (INSERT SPOILER) now. Don’t freak. I’m not saying he’s NOT a hero. But he was already rewarded as one, so I don’t have to defend him.)  Charity though, she’s fascinating to look at under this light.

Sacrifice: I’m in the Navy, and I’m a coward. I chose to avoid a certain problem rather than ever face it. But let someone you love put himself or herself in danger time and time again. It’s harder than ACTUALLY putting yourself in danger. (Any of my service members want to argue?) She gives up her husband for years, and THEN has to let her daughter go. She also sacrifices the VERY power that would make her able to fight, and she lets this power go to be a mom.

Courage: I’m going to double tap this. Facing danger, easy. Letting those you love PUT themselves in danger? Nope. I can’t do that. I’d rather take on the entire magical world by myself with a slingshot and a prayer (no offense to that guy who fought a giant) than let someone I love come anywhere near danger.

Loyalty: Where Xander is loyal to a fault, Charity’s loyalty shines despite her wishes. She lets Harry in her life (and those of her children) because of Michael. In point of fact, she, though begrudgingly, allows Harry to remain in that family despite every reason to turn him away. THEN she agrees to watch over his child. Loyalty isn’t always shown by being there when your needed. Sometimes loyalty is putting up with a person you’d rather not just because someone you cared about asks you to. This is where Charity shines. No, she doesn’t exactly like it, and that much is obvious, but she still does it.

What do you all think? Do I have too many qualifications? Not enough? What would you add?  What would you let go? Feel free to comment below. Or, offer other characters (I left a bajillion out).

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Final 4! January Book Cover of the Month

Final 4! January Book Cover of the Month

january-cover-display_4First, a bit of news that I’m proud of.  This little idea of mine has now crossed the 2,000 vote barrier, and it’s still one of the most popular brackets on Brackify.com. We had 437 votes in this round alone, pushing us to 2,084 total votes.  I’m honestly humbled by that, and I think the authors and artists behind these covers would be equally proud.

As they say in football, let’s go to the tape:

The Closest Contest:
This depends on how you look at it. In terms of simple votes, A Gathering of Shadows only beat Tested by Magic by four tiny votes.  *Refreshes page hoping the last 45 minutes of voting don’t change things*  But the surprising close call is actually also the most voted on contest.  That would be Loveless by Marissa Howard. It beat Dominion by Michael C. Miles by 12 votes, but it only had 53% of the votes (the same as Gathering vs Tested).  It really was a close match, and that caused it to be the most contested.

The Largest Victor:
The Unleashed by Bentz Deyo was simply dominant in its match against Rebel, Pawn, King by Morgan Rice.  Unleashed won by 46 votes (72 percent of the votes).

Most Voted On Contest:
The most contested match in the young history of this idea in terms of votes is Loveless vs Dominion. How contested was it? It received a total of 163 votes! (That’s almost as many votes as the December BCOTM had in total.  Seriously, if Marissa or Michael are out there, send your fans a FB message or Tweet, because they showed up for you, and it helped you both!  While Dominion didn’t make it into the next round, it did receive enough votes to get an honorary spot in the February bracket. This is because it was a short month, and I always use runners up to fill out the bracket of 32.  So don’t fret Dominion fans! You’ll have another chance to get that cover into the 2017 bracket.

I’d like to thank the voters myself.  Sure, no other contest came anywhere NEAR 163 votes, the others were well above 70.  I do ask that if you vote for one, you vote for all, but this round was at least a little closer.

Least Voted On Contest:
There will always be one of these.  And the low vote-earner for this round was Tested vs Gathering. It only received 72 votes, and they needed every single one of them.

The Final Four is another quick round. It ends when the clock strikes midnight of Feb. 19. (That’s about 48 hours).

Only 1 will win, but the other authors can still be proud because they’re all guaranteed AT LEAST a chance to try again in the February bracket.

Do me a favor? I’m still working out a lot, and I want to be sure there’s enough time to vote. I have to balance that with life and being able to launch the brackets, but if you think these last few rounds aren’t enough time, please let me know.

But do it after you vote, because you don’t have enough time!

Head over here and vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

January Book Cover of the Month Elite 8

January Book Cover of the Month Elite 8

This was easily the most exciting round in the short history of this little event I’ve come up with.  And the votes are just staggering.  We’re up to 1,647, which means the Sweet 16 had 593 votes all by itself. I had to wait until just a few moments before midnight to declare a winner (and even now I’m refreshing the bracket to be sure one contest didn’t change).

As they say in football, let’s go to the tape:

The Closest Contest:
For the second round in a row, Upside Down found itself in a nail biter. It wasn’t able to pull of the victory this time though.  *Refreshes screen to be sure nothing’s changed* Only 45 minutes from the end of the round, Rebel, Pawn, King, managed to eek out a two-vote victory.  I’ll be honest, I’m a HUGE fan of Upside Down, but it couldn’t find the votes it needed.  It was the closet in terms of how many votes separated it and marine of victory (decided by only 3%!)

In terms of margin of victory, the closest contest was Marked vs The VeilMarkedreceived more raw votes, but it only received 52% of the 67 votes from the contest.

The Largest Victor:
Dominion beat The Liberation by a margin of 32 raw votes and 40% of the total votes. I think this artist should be very proud and very grateful to her following. (I don’t mean that sarcastically, that’s AMAZING support for a great talent.)

Most Voted On Contest:
As much support as Dominion got, Human vs The Unleashed got just ONE more vote (81 total votes as I type this). Those contests and Loveless vs ShadowBound all received more than 75 votes.  On that note, I’m overjoyed to see such support. I want fans of these artists and authors to come show their support, but while you’re doing so, please take the time to vote on the other contests. I’m very glad that every contest had at least 60 votes, but I’d be even happier if there was less separation between the most voted on and least voted on match. I think it shows respect to all those involved.

Least Voted On Contest:
To stress my point on the above contest, two matches received 60 votes. Queen of Chaos vs Tested by Magic and A Gathering of Shadows vs Orbital each earned those.  Neither match was very close, and I understand how quickly a favorite could form, but I think those were four very nice covers.

So now it’s on to the Elite 8!  This round will last until Feb. 17 at midnight. That’s not a lot of time, but you only have 4 matches to vote on! So, authors and artists, make sure you reach out to your fans and get them voting to support you (and the rest of the competitors).

I’m still amazed at how successful this has been. I mentioned on Facebook that this bracket is currently one of the most popular on Brackify (at least is was when I was typing this). Let’s keep the momentum going!

Head over here and vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

The Bad Guys: The Different Types of Villains

The Bad Guys: The Different Types of Villains

vader-2023850_960_720I was jumping around the Blogverse (if that’s not already a common term I’m trademarking it) and found J.R. Handley’s blog about Villains.  That got me to thinking about the “types” of villains.

This isn’t to be confused with conflict, which Quintessential Editor covered so well in this blog. Villains are a source of conflict, but I’m talking specifically about the different types of villains you see in stories.

I did some jumping around and found this blog from Word Hunter and this blog from Ongoing Worlds blog.

Both have a lot of great information, and they break villains down to a very fine degree.

However, I tend to like things kept simple. Things can be broken down into micro-categories, and one should work to do so. But where the above blogs give you the micro, I thought I’d attempt to offer the major categories of villains. The distinctions I give them are out of my own mind, but may overlap. My goal is to create a smaller list of “broad” terms to describe whatever villain you might be creating. That list can be broken down into either of the lists I mentioned above.

So here we go:

  1. demon-161607_960_720
    This image and all others are copyright free from Pixabay.

    The deity villain:  This isn’t a post about religion. That said, this type of villain deals with any deity be they good, bad, or man-like (the Greek gods were very petty). Any “god-like” or “devil” like character would fall under this category.

This villain has what seems to be absolute power. This villain rarely acts directly. He/she has agents who do his/her bidding. The final conflict between the hero and deity villain don’t always end in direct conflict, but they can.

Stories from this point of view often have a “helper” deity. This usually gives the hero (if he isn’t a god or demigod himself) the required power to delete this evil, thus preventing Deus Ex Machina. Now, some stories have many different villains (the Greek gods were dastardly in some regards, but they weren’t the “main” opponents, just meddlers that made life more complicated for hero and villain alike).  But stories that focus on this villain as a source of conflict are go-to Scifi and Fantasy villains.

Case Study: The Mistborn Trilogy (1st era).  I was going to analyze this more deeply, but it’s just a great series, and if you haven’t read it, I don’t want to spoil it for you. This trilogy meets all the criteria I mentioned above.

Case Study: Lord of the Rings. As I mentioned above, the hero and deity villain don’t have to face off directly.

2)  joker-1822273_960_720The inversive villain:  I did a blog about symbiotic villains recently.  These guys all fall under that category. The sole requirement in this type of villain is that the villain is the equal opposite of the hero.  I did plenty of case studies for this in the blog I just mentioned, but I do want to elaborate a point.

It doesn’t matter how powerful or weak the character is. What matters is the qualities the hero shares are manipulated and skewed through the perception of the villain. Some inversive villains are equally as powerful as the hero, while others are comparatively weaker. This depends on how much the hero’s “power” defines him. Whatever defines the hero also defines the villain, it is the stance on the issue or the application of those defining traits that make the conflict between these villains and their heroes so compelling.

william-shakespeare-67765_960_7203) The betrayed villain: A point of emphasis. Here, the point is betrayal is the nature of this villain. It doesn’t matter if it’s the villain who betrayed or was betrayed. If the cause of this characters negative actions are a direct result of a foreseen “slight” you have a betrayed villain.  Betrayal is a key theme in this conflict and to this character. This villain rises due to a wedge driven between he and the hero. They were friends or family at some point.  Don’t be tempted to throw Magneto in this. Magneto and Charles still care about each other. Neither feels betrayed and they, in fact, often protect each other from perceived “greater” threats. No, Magneto belongs in the inversive villain category.

Case Study:  Iago (my favorite villain of all time).  Iago felt betrayed. The reason for his actions revolve around a promotion he felt he deserved but was instead slighted.    He was able to pull off his plan because of the trust he still feigned through the play.

This is a common theme in this sort of villain. , but it isn’t mandated. In fact, sometimes a   betrayed villain is born, and the hero knowingly creates him. The point is, this villain’s motivation and reason for dastardly deeds is based on a sense of betrayal. I thought about this topic a long time, and couldn’t readily think of a “main” villain of this type in Fantasy or Science Fiction.  So if anyone here more well read than I am knows of a scifi/fantasy villain who falls in this category, please say so in the comments below.

monster-571215_960_7204) The pure evil villain: These are the guys my generation grew up loving to hate. These villains are very common in cartoons. Pick an 80’s cartoon, look at the villain. These guys are falling out of style these days because their motivations are harder to believe. These are the guys who simply exist to be bad. They have no motivation nor cause for their evil deeds. Any villain who is bad, but there’s no identifiable cause of that evil falls into this category.

I’m not so against this type of villain, but my editor and many bloggers talk about them, and most say these types of villains are unsatisfying. That doesn’t stop Hollywood from cranking out villains who fall under this category, but there’s a reason for that. TV and Movie fans have a lesser expectation of depth. Unless you’re sitting down for a 30-minute cartoon, the viewer doesn’t tend to care “why” the villain is doing what he’s doing. To shift your villains out of this category, give him a motivation the reader can identify. I’m personally NOT going to make it a requirement that the reader empathize, but some would argue the requirement. I absolutely agree the reader/viewer must understand a character’s motivation to be promoted out to this category, but I don’t think the reader has to agree or empathize with it.

5) light-saber-1542459_960_720The cause villain: If all you do is give your “pure” evil villain a “cause” this is what you’d get. Here is a villain who has a “reason” for what he’s doing, but that reason can vary. It doesn’t matter here if the reader agrees with the cause. What matters is the reader understands it.

Case Study:  Grand Admiral Thrawn from Star Wars. He wanted order in the Galaxy. He did some awful stuff to see that order delivered, but he did it.  For fans of the series, I have a question you can debate in the comments below.

I was going to create a new category for the power-hungry villain, (which might be where Palpatine goes) but it doesn’t matter that the cause is “more power.” If the villain has a cause, he’s a cause villain.  This is the villain whose primary motivation is the accumulation of (or of more) power.  That means this is where those evil emperors/kings fall under too.  He’d be pretty easy to get a long with if the world would just do what he says and give him what he wants.  You may argue Palpatine goes here, but I’m less convinced. Yes, he wants to rule the galaxy, and that might be the point that wins the argument for you, but did he develop that want for a reason? This is what creates the power-hungry villain subcategory of a cause villain from a power-hungry villain. If the villain’s cause is more power, you’ll see this (specific) version of a cause villain.

Case Study: Sylar from Heroes. His whole purpose is the accumulation of abilities. He still has a cause, but that cause is specifically related to power. Yes, Palpatine and Sylar are cause villains, but their motivations might differ. I’m not wholly bought in on the idea that Palpatine simply wanted “more power.” I’d be very interested to see a debate on the subject in the comments below.

So there it is.  I’m pretty confident I could set any villain in one of the five categories above. The subcategories (power-hungry being so important I felt I had to at least address it) are more about plot and conflict than the motivation for the characters.  Do you have a villain I can’t throw in one of these categories? If so, what category would you give them? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

January Book Cover of the Month Sweet 16

January Book Cover of the Month Sweet 16

january-cover-displayswt16The Sweet 16 is here!

32 covers came in, and your votes have cut them down to 16. And BOY DID YOU VOTE! I’m thrilled! Last month, the bracket received a total of 137 votes, and I was over the moon. This month has already received ten times that number in the first round. As I type this (a few hours from midnight), there were  1,054 votes cast.

Let’s go over some numbers:

The Closest Contest:
That would be Upside Down vs Indelible.  Only five votes separated Upside Down from Indelible. This was my personal favorite bracket. I honestly feel guilty for putting those two up against each other in the first round. I assure you, this wasn’t by diabolical design. Honestly, I was just tossing them in the bracket as I came to them. Still, it was a great contest.

In terms of margin of victory, the closest contest was Marked vs The Veil. Marked received more raw votes, but it only received 52% of the 67 votes from the contest.

The Largest Victor:
Loveless beat Trackers by a margin of 64 raw votes. Dominion dominated it’s contest against The Ugly Inside by receiving 88% of the contest’s 71 votes.

Most Voted On Contest:
It was honestly a bit close, but the most voted on contest was New York Deep vs The Unleashed. This contest had a whopping 106 votes. Loveless vs Trackers was a close second with 104 total votes.

Least Voted On Contest:
The Sanctuary vs ’48 only received 49 votes. Here’s hoping those who voted for The Sanctuary to move on all come back in force for the next round.

411sff159rl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Most Votes:
Loveless received 84 votes. That’s a great amount of support. The Unleashed, Dominion, and Shadowbound were the only other covers that came close (79, 63 and 60 votes respectively).

So now it’s on to the Sweet 16!  This round will last until Feb. 15. That’s about 8 days to pick which 8 will move on.

I want to say how happy I am that this is receiving so much support. These are great covers done by great artists for amazing authors. Here’s hoping it only gets bigger from here!

With all that said, what are you waiting for? Head over here and vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt