Monday, October 31, 2011


What makes the witch’s broom fly?

What makes the ghost spirit cry?


What makes the werewolf howl?

What makes the vampire growl?


When trees creak

And doors squeak...

It’s magic.

When creatures roam

In search of home...

It’s magic.

Magic’s in the air tonight,

Delivering an awful fright.

Jack-o-lanterns on the porch,

Shining with a grisly torch.

Scary ghouls and horrid beasts

Looking for their candy feasts,

Fairies, witches, dwarfs, and trolls

Reaching for those candy bowls.

Halloween’s a night for fun–

Boos and shrieks to make us run.

Halloween comes once a year

Allowing us to laugh at fear.

All the rest may seem so tragic,

Until you fill your life with...


Monday, October 24, 2011

ASSASSINATION ANXIETY (McKenzie Files Book 2) now available!

The McKenzie Files, Book 2
by Barry K. Nelson
Science fiction / military / clone

The second installment of Barry Nelson's military/clone science fiction series is now available in ebook at popular online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. The print edition will be available next week.


The three captured and reprogrammed Brelac Reploids have proved their worth to the Protectorate in a fierce battle against the powerful cybernetic weapon Succubus, developed by traitorous Dr. Fenlow. The Reploids, commissioned to form a special unit known as the Silencers under the jurisdiction of the military’s Central Intelligence Division, are back on Maseklos Prime, working at menial jobs while the CID keeps a close eye on them. That changes when President Drennan is almost killed in a bizarre assassination attempt.

Colin McKenzie and his team are ordered to uncover whoever’s behind the assassination attempt and to find and destroy the frightening weapons responsible for the horrible death and destruction at the President’s last election campaign address. After the first attempt on the President’s life, it’s certain more are sure to follow.

Meanwhile, Colin remains curious and wary about his dark past as a Vendetta operative formerly working against the Protectorate. The more he learns about his previous life, the less he likes it. Even more worrisome is the odd dreams he’s been having.

As Colin, Diane, and Kelly chase leads in their case, they realize they may be up against unstoppable weapons – but they are the Protectorate’s only hope.

Ebook available now, print coming soon!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

COMING SOON! Natasha Larry's UNNATURAL LAW (Darwin's Children Book 2)


Check out the cover and book summary for Natasha Larry's second book in the Darwin's Children young-adult paranormal series...

Darwin's Children Book 2
by Natasha Larry
Young-Adult Paranormal

Seventeen-year-old Jaycie Lerner’s psychokinetic power surge is over, and her astounding powers are under control for the time being – sort of. As she struggles to maintain her humanity in the face of the awesome terror and responsibility of her abilities, she also yearns for the chance at a normal life – and a relationship with Matt Carter, the best friend she had to leave behind. But Matt’s got a few tricks up his sleeve, and he’s not about to give up on his feelings for Jaycie.

As Jaycie and her family grapple with the day-to-day routine of trying to keep their world together, Jaycie’s mother figure, Allison Young, endures a personal crisis of her own. The superhuman blonde possesses the physical equivalent of Jaycie’s awesome psychic power. So evolved, at ninety-two she still looks twenty. But what good is extended life when everyone else around her is so fragile? With no one to share her unusual life, she’s a uniquely lonely woman yearning for the romantic love she sees all around her. But in a dream she gets her wish – and it quickly turns to a nightmare for everyone else in her life. The memory of a rose is all she can hold onto in the storm of obsession that nearly sweeps her away.

Things quickly turn deadly for the vampires, but the Dey-Vah Guard fairies refuse to acknowledge there’s an imbalance in the nature they protect. As the danger gets ever closer to Jaycie and her family, the race is on to find answers before a secret plot can destroy them all.

High praise for DARWIN'S CHILDREN

Excerpts from reviews for Natasha Larry’s first novel in the series, Darwin’s Children...

“I completely fell in love with the storyline and the characters from page one! ... The characters are very well developed, at times I actually wished these characters could be real and they would adopt me into their family. You can feel the love and devotion the family have for each other through the pages. ... Overall, I loved this book! It captures so many different elements in it, family dynamics, love, romance, paranormal elements, science and genetic elements and learning to deal with your past and love who you are now!” –Belle Books Review

“...this book is amazing. There are some crazy twists and turns. I was seriously shocked at quite a few points in this book. I teared up and I was like, ‘holy snapples!’ There were some definite ‘oh my God’ moments, quite a few of them actually. I just can’t wait to read the next books that come out. I can’t wait to see Jaycie grow even more and see how her family deals with all the coming changes.” –Amber R., Awesome Sauce Book Club

“Darwin’s Children is a layered, smart and complicated story. I really enjoyed the intelligence that was undoubtedly at work writing this book. Darwin’s Children was a book thoroughly unlike anything I’ve read before. Sure, I’ve read books about humans with super abilities, but none with so much thought, creativity and explanation behind the abilities.” –Andrea, The Bookish Babes

“Darwin’s Children is a fun read about a new generation of superheroes.” –My Neurotic Book Affair

UNNATURAL LAW, Darwin's Children Book 2...

Available soon in ebook and print!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

BOOK REVIEW CORNER – Forbidden Mind (Kinrade)

By Kimberly Kinrade
Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy
(Ebook provided by the author for review)
Reviewed by Willa Kaye Danes, author at Penumbra Publishing

Sam is approaching her eighteenth birthday and looking forward to finally being able to live a normal life, go to college, and be on her own. But Sam is not ‘normal.’ She reads minds. This makes her a valuable asset to her employer she and her friends jokingly call Rent-A-Kid. The organization’s huge campus has every convenience to support its charges – including a high-security fence around the property. Sam’s only ventures outside the compound consist of her assignments where she is sent all over the world with bodyguards to do undercover work for people who pay handsomely for her unique skill as a mind-reader. But when she turns eighteen, she can stop working and get her earnings kept in a trust fund by Rent-A-Kid. At least, that’s what she’s been told for as long as she can remember. When Sam detects the mind of a boy on campus who is not one of the Rent-A-Kids, but has been kidnapped and drugged, she realizes everything she’s been told by Rent-A-Kid is a lie. She must escape and help her friends and Drake, but she’s unprepared to launch a coordinated escape plan by herself. Will Drake’s and her powers be enough to get the job done?

I really enjoyed this book. On the surface it may have seemed a bit short and a tad simplistic because it was easy to read and consisted of a lot of really short chapters. However, it was well written, fast-paced, and suspenseful as the kids try to find answers to nagging questions about their past and what is really going on at Rent-A-Kid. The characters were all well defined and individual enough to be believable. There was just enough romance to make it interesting, but the romance wasn’t the only focus of the story, as there was a sense of danger that affected all the characters. The concept of the Rent-A-Kid corporation was a cool idea, and reminded me a bit of Josh Whedon’s ‘Doll House’ TV series. There are some brief and vague references to child exploitation, and an issue with pregnancy; however these are handled quite well with no objectionable or graphic descriptions. This story is a good selection for older teen readers who like a bit of paranormal and a bit of romantic suspense, but can also be enjoyed by adults.

I give this a solid 4, preferably 4.5 out of 5.0 (reserving 5.0 for OMG this was fantastic), but since there are no half-point increments at most rating sites, I’ll leave it at 4.0 and recommend it, as I did enjoy it quite a bit. This book is obviously the first installment of a planned series.

Military Science Fiction Interview - Walter Knight (America's Galactic Foreign Legion's interview of Walter Knight, author of the popular humorous military science fiction series, AMERICA'S GALACTIC FOREIGN LEGION is reproduced below, with permission. To see the original posting at, CLICK HERE.

07Oct2010: interviews Walter Knight, author of the military science fiction novel, America's Galactic Foreign Legion.

MilSciFi: "Welcome. Please tell us a little something about your novel."

Knight: "America's Galactic Foreign Legion" Is a 14 book military science fiction series about a compulsive gambler who joins future America's Foreign Legion to avoid debts, and ends up fighting aliens on a distant planet colony.  At least, that is how it started.

The future world I created is the terraformed planet of New Colorado, where after several wars, humanity and spider-like aliens are forced to live with each other across a DMZ.  Although the tow species often fight it out in true military science fiction tradition, America's most potent weapon turns out to be our culture.  The aliens have fits with the Americanization / contamination of their culture and hatchings.

The devious Americans bring in the heavy artillery: Satellite TV, casino gambling, drugs, alcohol, football, baseball, Nike sports products, Walmart, McDonald's, Taco Bell, KFC, money, democracy, freedom, poker, sports betting, the Mafia, and interspecies sex and porn (yuk).
Americanization progresses  to the point where alien shoppers camping outside Walmart on Black Friday riot after human shoppers already inside taunt them by holding up discounted electronic items, and giving them the one fingered salute.  The aliens try to pass laws against Nike sports products and baggy pants, scate boards, and even American cheese, but are already too hopelessly addicted to Starbucks coffee and American TV.  Resistance is futile."

MilSciFi: "Is this part of a large series or universe?"

Knight: "The world of New Colorado I create evolves from small new colony where initial combat is with nukes and combatants are forced into underground tunnels, to a frontier with gold rushes and land grabs, to a divided planet with large cities and immigration problems. With 14 books I have plenty of room for world building and character development.

My main character, Joey R. Czerinski, starts out as a desperate compulsive gambler and small time thief who does not plan more than a few moments ahead.  Czerinski changes as he acquires more responsibility and experience in the Legion, but still retains a lot of his bad straits.  Readers either love or hate Czerinski."

MilSciFi: "What inspired you to write this story?"

Knight: "I have a passion for science fiction, military history, and gambling.  "America's Galactic Foreign Legion" started out being a traditional military science fiction story based on those themes.  However, it soon changed.  I have a funny bone that won't stop, and so AGFL evolved in to a humorous parody.  I make fun of everyone I write about.  I can't help it.  The final result in quite unique.  There is not a lot of humorous military science fiction out there.

There is also political humor.  In a series about culture clash between humanity and aliens that cannot be avoided because the contemporary events unfolding now worldwide.  Today you have China and Iran trying to outlaw or control TV and the internet, and push back American culture.  They will fail, just as my aliens fail.  Watch the news closely.  Even rioters in Egypt professing to hate America often wear American T-shirts and tennis shoes.  As I said before, resistance is futile.

I love that phrase, 'resistance is futile.'  I also have a passion for movies and TV, and spoof both often.  If you read AGFL closely, you will find much media, history, and humor snuck in.

Some, including my editor, call AGFL politically incorrect.  I suppose a science fiction story about a future strong America flexing its muscles against E.T. Is considered politically incorrect, but it should not be.  Stories about a failed America, or the Apocalypse, irritate me, as do stories about evil corporations and a united Earth effort to reach the stars.  If humanity ever reaches out to conquer the galaxy, it will be on American starships.  No one else can do it.  If that is politically incorrect, so be it."

MilSciFi: "Does science and technology play an important role in this story (or in your work in general), or is it secondary to the story telling and characterization?"

Knight: "America's Galactic Foreign Legion" is character driven, in the tradition of "Battle Star Galactica," except with less females.  Oops, sorry, slip was politically incorrect.

At one point my editor suggested more science and technology, as have some readers.  However, my formula seems to be working.  The series has sold over 20,000 books (mostly Kindle) and we are just starting.  That is not bad for a new author.  Kindle ownership is expected to increase to *20,000,000 this Christmas, and AGFL will ride that wave."

MilSciFi: "Do you have plans to expand upon, or write other works based on this novel?"

Knight: "America's Galactic Foreign Legion is a 14 book series, so far.  I may continue the series forever, or not.  The first 11 books are published, and I hope to get the rest edited before Christmas."

MilSciFi: "Most authors we encounter write novellas/novels, do you write short stories, and if so do you find it a challenge?"

Knight: "I love to write short stories.  I add short stories to the end of most of my books.  I call it 'bonus humor.'  All of the short stories are based on AGFL themes, but are apart from the main story lines.

I have two favorites, one about an alien lawsuit accusing fat female human pestilence shoppers of running over and crushing alien shoppers during the Black Friday Walmart riot, and the other about a Legion swat team surrounding a literary critic.  The critic dies slow and painful.  It's funny stuff."

MilSciFi: "Since time is of the essence for getting a read up to speed in a short story, do you have a strategy, or preferred method for doing this?"

Knight: "When I get writer's block on my main story lines, I write short stories.  Sometimes I can incorporate a short story into the new plot, or sometimes it just gets added to the end as bonus humor.  To help other authors at Penumbra, I have even added their short stories or sample chapters to the end of my books (kindle; E-books).  We live in a funny world, so I have no problem finding something to write about."

MilSciFi: "What advice would you give the aspiring military science fiction writer?"

Knight: "No matter what you write, it is the nature of military science fiction that you are going to upset someone.  Even the word 'military' upsets some people.  Me?  I tend to piss off liberals.  I do not intend to.  I try to be fair and balanced.  But to some, any voice that dares to joke at the establishment is not tolerated.  Most science fiction writers and their books are liberal, so hopefully my books will be a breath of fresh air to the genre.  "America's Galactic Foreign Legion" has certainly got some attention and ire.

So my advise?  Write with no concern about what you think others want you to write.  Dare to upset people because it will happen no matter what you write.  The only restrictions I put on me writing is I keep swear words to a minimum, and do not use racist or anti-gay humor.  I have no desire to be the Andrew Dice Clay of science fiction.  I ask myself, would I be proud to show my book to my mother or neighbor?

I did upset a lady with my alien /  human sex scene.  I think she had a problem with my main character having commitment issues.  Humor can be a difficult thing."

MilSciFi: "Who is your single-most influence in science fiction and what impact have they had on our own work?"

Knight: "My science fiction heroes are Harry Turtledove and L. Ron Hubbard.    Turtledove's 'Colonization" series about aliens attacking Earth during WWII inspired me to write a long series military science fiction series that deals with human / alien culture clash issues.

L. Ron Hubbard's "Battlefield Earth" and "Mission Earth" series are great.  My favorite scene of "Battlefield Earth" is when the aliens observe starving humans eating rats and assume rats are a natural part of our diet.  The alien does not understand why human prisoners are not more appreciative when he provides an ample supply of rats for dinner.  L. Ron Hubbard has off the hook humor that I love.

World famous science fiction writer Piers Anthony wrote a nice book review of "America's Galactic Foreign Legion" saying, "It's wild, improbable, but great adventure."

MilSciFi: "What is the one thing you find the most difficult about writing military science fiction?"

Knight: "Space combat.  I avoided it as much as possible, and stick to the infantry.  If you want to read about space combat, go read Star Trek or Star Wars."

MilSciFi: "Is military science fiction the only thing you write, or is there something else out there we should be looking for?"

Knight: "I also wrote "Vampire in the Outfield" about a minor league baseball player who discovers he can play baseball and hit better after being bitten by a Vampire.  He still has a problem with day games.  'Johnny Black' tries to lead the Seattle Mariners against the Evil Empire (New York Yankees).  It's a fun read, and humor abounds.

For now I am concentrating on finishing the "America's Galactic Foreign Legion" series.  AGFL-12 is being edited now, and 13 and 14 will be out before Christmas."

MilSciFi: "Please tell us about your publisher, and how did you came to chose them?"

Knight: "Penumbra Publishing is new, about four years old.  Their catalog is growing.  I broke all the rules when I contacted Penumbra.  I attached 11 novels to my E-mail query letter, rather than the sample chapters most publishers request.  I figured Penumbra could press the delete button at any time.

Penumbra sent me back a complementary cursory edit of my first book.  That was quite a difference from the form responses I had been getting from publishers.  Penumbra editor Patricia Morrison did not realize at first I wrote humor, and got a bit irritated at first.  She did not like my alien lawyer wearing glasses and carrying a brief case.  Pat thought that was not realistic.  When Pat realized I was poking fun, she read my manuscript in a different light.

I insisted on AGFL being a package deal.  Penumbra asked me about marketing.  I am a new author, and knew marketing would be a tough sell.  The best promotion for a book, is to write a 2nd book.  The best promotion for the 2nd book is to write a 3rd, and so on.  Pat liked my first book, so she read the others to make sure of their quality.  My series passed muster, and Penumbra agreed to publish the entire series.  I have continued to add to the series since 'first contact.'

MilSciFi: "Do you have any other projects in the works?"

Knight: "Just short stories with AGFL themes."

MilSciFi: "Do you have any upcoming author events?"

Knight: "No.  I have done interviews for local newspapers, but promotion is most cost effective if done online.  Amazon does a great job of promoting one a novel has been noticed.  Fortunately, I see AGFL has been noticed a lot.  I am even selling well in the UK, and have a few German sales that I laugh at.

Sales of my paperbacks and E-books are all online.  New authors published through a small press cannot get on bookshelves at traditional brick and mortar bookstores because we cannot afford to take back unsold books.  That effectively locks out authors who do not publish through the Big 6 Eastern New York publishers.  That's fine, I am still selling a lot of books, and the future looks great.  Kindle sales are the savior of new authors, and the future of the publishing industry.  Now is an exciting and historical time to be a new author, and I am fortunate to have written "America's Galactic Foreign Legion" at right place and at the right time.

I blog some, mostly at writer's blogs, but no longer have to promote much.  AGFL mostly sells itself now.  I enjoy doing this type of online interview.  It is great to be able to give a shout out to my peers and readers."

MilSciFi: "Do you have a website?"

Knight: "I have a five page website at where I post cover art and sample chapters for all my books, along with bio information and updates."

MilSciFi: "Thank you, for your time."

Knight: "Thank you for the interview.  My dream is for "America's Galactic Foreign Legion" to be coming to a theater near you."

BOOK REVIEW CORNER - The Devil's Game (Pierce/Kaye)


From time to time, various folks at Penumbra Publishing read books (that we didn't publish!), and are happy to post reviews. Sometimes these books are provided by the authors requesting reviews, and sometimes they are free or 99-cent downloads, and sometimes they are books purchased for personal reading. When possible, the reviewer will note the source and format. Reviews are strictly the opinion of the individual reviewer.

By S.L. Pierce & Maren Kaye
Psychological Thriller
(Ebook provided by the author as a contest prize)
Review by Willa Kaye Danes, author at Penumbra Publishing

This story about a girl and her stalker – and her stalker’s stalker intent on ending things badly – was highly suspenseful and kept me guessing to the end regarding the real culprit. A well written psychological thriller with great characterization and pacing, The Devil’s Game switches scenes from an ambition-driven psychiatrist and her patient (Patient X), obsessed with following stalkers, to the rather hapless but likeable victim, Rachel, alone in the big city, and not sure who she can trust to turn to for help when mysterious gifts begin appearing inside her apartment. Later, the gifts are accompanied by threatening messages, but poor Rachel is at a loss to figure out how the culprit is gaining access to her apartment. There are plenty of suspects to choose from, and some deliberate misdirection that makes it continually impossible to figure out who the real stalker is. It is intense reading, and the characters are all very believable and well drawn. The dialog is crisp and realistic, and I found myself instantly drawn into Rachel’s world of worry and woe.

On a technical side, there were a few instances of point-of-view mixing I felt should not have been there, but they were unobtrusive enough not to mar the reading of the story. Another issue is that the authors give us snippets of almost everyone’s point of view, but conveniently leave out clues I felt should have been dealt with a little more fairly in the story. That is the main reason it was so hard to figure out who the stalker and the stalker-stalker were, because things were kept from the reader in such a way that it didn’t seem quite logical, given that we are seeing everyone’s thoughts. Overlooking this, one can still become quickly absorbed in the story and empathize with Rachel throughout the whole ordeal. The ending wraps up nicely, and overall the story is very entertaining and riveting.

I would rate it 5/5 but for the bit about the holding back of clues when in the POV of the ‘guilty parties.’ With that, it earns a 4.5. out of 5.0. Well done, and recommended.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 Interviews Barry K. Nelson and Walter Knight, a website devoted to science fiction, with book reviews and author interviews, recently interviewed two Penumbra Publishing science fiction authors...

Barry K. Nelson, author of THE MCKENZIE FILES military science fiction series has one book out now, with the second in the series due to be released at the end of the month. Read the complete MilSciFi interview CLICK HERE.

The McKenzie Files
Barry K. Nelson
Military Science Fiction
Available in print and ebook at Amazon and other online retailers

The United Protectorate is under attack by the Brelac, a bloodthirsty reptilian alien race bent on destroying humanity. A dark alliance between the Brelac and the Vendetta, a separatist organization, looms over the Protectorate. The Brelac's onslaught brings forth the creation of the genetically engineered humanoid weapons called Reploids. Reploids are identical copies of real humans captured, killed, cloned, embedded with powerful psionic abilities, and programmed to serve the Brelac. They are untraceable and blend into human society so believably, the Reploids themselves do not know they are clones.

Colin McKenzie, part of a military team sent to a remote planet to investigate and capture a downed Brelac ship, turns on his commanding officer in an attempt to protect a shipwrecked band of Brelac soldiers. But he is captured and reprogrammed - along with two other arrested Reploids - to serve the government they were originally created to destroy.

The balance is upset when a weapon powerful enough to bring the Protectorate to its knees is about to be unleashed - and the Protectorate's only hope of stopping it is the three Reploids.


Walter Knight, author of the humorous military science fiction series AMERICA'S GALACTIC FOREIGN LEGION has twelve books out now, with the next due early November. Read the complete MilSciFi interview CLICK HERE.

America's Galactic Foreign Legion
Book 12: The Ark
Walter Knight
Humorous Military Science Fiction
Available in print and ebook at Amazon and other online retailers

When a huge ship is found buried deep beneath a desert oasis in an unpopulated area of New Colorado’s New Gobi Desert, the race is on between the United States Galactic Federation and the Arthropodan Empire to claim its secrets. General Manny Lopez simply wants to loot the technological treasure. However, the spiders believe the ship is the mythical Ark from their tales of old.

As Caldera Lake is suddenly overrun by the Galactic Foreign Legion and spider marines setting up camp on opposite sides of the line of demarcation running through the middle of the lake, it’s soon discovered that the tranquil looking oasis does not offer a relaxing resort setting. Something’s swimming in the lake, and it’s hungry. Despite the danger, hotels and restaurants spring up to handle the influx of tourists and the curious making pilgrimages to catch a glimpse of the Ark.

The race between the two sides continues amid disagreements and skirmishes unavoidable in a clash of cultural differences. But it’s all done in a sportsmanlike manner – at least that’s what Colonel Joey R. Czerinski ‘The Toe’ and General Manny ‘The Ear’ Lopez claim.

Hungry crocs, graffiti taggers, midnight commando raids, tawdry torture, and lots of fried chicken all take a turn fueling the laughter in this twelfth tale of the seriously silly military space saga.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Writing Good Bad Guys (from Paranormal Wire)

TUESDAY TIPS AND TIDBITS from Paranormal Wire - Writing Good Bad Guys

Readers love to hate villains – they like to boo the bad guy and cheer on the good guy. It’s human nature, a natural side-effect of our society. A great villain can make for a great story. There’s no one right way to craft the perfect villain, because each story will have different requirements and nuances in the traditional heroic tale, but here are a few general tips.

BALANCE. As in nature, the fiction writer should strive to maintain balance in the way the villain and protagonist are portrayed, so that neither has a consistently lopsided advantage in the story. If your hero seems to have everything going for him (or her), the antagonist must have some other kind of advantage that balances the hero’s attributes or skills. As the story progresses, for every gain the protagonist seems to make in overcoming the villain, there should be a setback so that the villain still has a good chance of winning the battle. This tinkering with balance naturally creates suspense.

THE UNDERDOG FACTOR. It may seem like a good idea to make your villain incredibly all-powerful and impossible to beat, so that when your hero finally does whip the bad guy, the victory seems all the more sweet. Readers will naturally cheer for the hero who appears to be victorious over impossible odds. However, if you forego believability to ramp up the over-the-top ‘oh-no’ factor, you may lose your readers. Danger must be balanced with credible details.

SYNCHRONIZED MOTIVATION. The background and motivation for the villain should be well-defined and evenly balanced against the motivation and background of the protagonist so they seem to be appropriately matched for the battle ahead. However, as a general rule, this match-up of motivation should not seem obviously planned or prearranged. Oftentimes, a mutual history can be built for the hero and villain so that the past plays a part in shaping their present conflict, and the story and the central conflict can be enriched when the hero encounters an old nemesis with whom he shares a dark past. But more important than anything else – the villain must have a good reason for being bad, and the hero must have a good reason for being the one to bring him down. As a general rule, these two central characters should be uniquely matched.

PERSONALITY DISORDERS. A believable hero is one who has flaws, but not so great that he/she is unlikable. The villain does not need to be balanced psychologically, but everything he does should make sense in within the rationale of his own psychotic world. A villain who is rational and logical to a fault can be just as scary as one who rants and raves like a lunatic. And it certainly isn’t necessary for a villain to be crazy to do bad things. Sometimes people with the best of intentions end up doing very bad things in the name of good.

The novelist who delves equally into the background of both the antagonist and protagonist gives a more thorough picture of motivation and development for the good-versus-evil flip sides of the story. Not every story lends itself to a deep character treatment for the villain, but that doesn’t mean the author shouldn’t use every opportunity to reinforce the villain’s character so that he comes off as real, well-rounded, and believable instead of a laughable cardboard cutout twirling his mustache. The author can’t just invent a villain and put him in the middle of a story, doing a bunch of dastardly deeds for no reason. Everyone acts a specific way for a reason, and villains are no exception. The author who’s most successful portraying a realistic villain is the one who is not afraid to get into the mind of his villain and find out what makes him tick.

DESPICABLE ME. Some authors are afraid to have anything really bad happen in their stories. And not every story calls for a villain whose atrocities reach the level of war crimes. The awful-factor for your villain should fit the story. If you plan to have your villain be a serial killer, then some murders are necessarily going to happen. Be prepared to handle the details with all the sensitivity and aplomb required for the style of story you intend to write. But as heinous as your villain’s crimes may be, you can go a long way to making your villain sympathetic and even likable. Just don’t make your villain so likable that he steals the spotlight from your hero – although if he comes close, that could spell a sequel if you play your cards right. The emotional intensity of your reader will be charged up if you create the tension of liking someone who’s supposed to be bad.

REMEMBER these simple tips – give your good guys a bad edge and your bad guys a likable edge to keep your readers on edge – and you’ll have a killer story that readers will love.

Pat Morrison, Penumbra Publishing