Sunday, March 17, 2013

Advice for self-published romance authors: writing the lovable bad boys

Because Liz and I have been so close our whole lives, our writing often reflects similar themes.  It’s not that we plan it like that.  It just happens.  No more is this more evident than in our treatment of heroes and villains.  By which I mean the way we instinctively turn villains into the heroes of our books.

For me, Not Another Vampire Book and Wicked Ugly Bad both directly relate to the idea of “Bad Guys” becoming the focus of the story.  Plus, Kingu, Chason and Gion from the Elemental Phases series started out as antagonists and then ended with their own books.  I call these characters “heroic-villains.”  Truthfully, they’re my favorite guys to write.
I trace my villains love to a day in Disney World when I was a kid.  During a parade at the Magic Kingdom, I started cheering loudly when the Big Bad Wolf went by.  I was an empathetic child and felt the need to be supportive of underdogs.  No doubt the poor guy in the costume was sweltering in the Florida sun.  Plus, no one else was clapping for him.  I was his only fan.  In return for my adoration, the “wolf” gave me a huge bunch of balloons and did a frolicking dance that nearly sent him headlong into the moat outside Cinderella’s castle.
For a seven year old it all became clear in that moment.  Did any Little Pigs give me a dozen Mickey balloons and nearly careen off a bridge for me?  Hell no.  I was team wolf!  Absolutely this experience plays into my writing, especially in Wicked Ugly Bad, where the Big Bad Wolf isn’t so really bad, at all.  I like to explore the heroic-villain’s softer side.
If you want to write the villain as the hero of the book, I do have some suggestions, though:
1)      They can’t be too bad-Liz goes out of her way to make some of her characters the worst people possible.  Tyrant in The Son of Sun and Sand, for instance?  He’s a horrible, horrible person whom I adore.  Seriously, he’s my favorite off all her characters.  But even she would agree with me that a “heroic villain” can’t, say, feed a puppy through a paper shredder or run a strip club full of underage girls.  Use caution.  There are limits to how bad he can be and still be a viable hero.

2)      They can’t be villainous towards the heroine- Everybody likes a snarky bad guy.  Nothing wrong with that.  And your heroic-villain has to be somewhat bad.  That’s the whole point.  They don’t have to like the heroine right away.  Let him be a jerk.  But, I would never have them injure their heroine or do something completely unforgivable to her.  If anything, I would err on the side of caution and have the heroic-villain be significantly nicer to the heroine than he is to the rest of the characters.  This will give her a greater motivation for falling for the supposed bad guy.

3)        They should have a reason for their villainy- I tend to write my heroic-villains as halfway decent people, who are trapped by poor choices or bad circumstance.  They’ve had traumatic pasts and screwed-up lives.  If they’re sympathetic, it’s because they’re so self-destructive and lost.  Give them a reason for why they’re behaving this way and people will be more likely to forgive their actions.

4)      They should need heroine more than she needs them-I’m not talking surface motivations.  If you want to do a storyline where she needs him to save her family’s farm or something, great.  But, on an emotional level, heroic-villains need someone to come and save them from themselves. That’s the real story.  I think this is why I’m drawn to them as a writer.  Who needs the love of the princess more, the popular knight-in-shining armor or the lonely dragon?  In most cases, these guys are never going to win a popularity contest and they know it.  Chances are, the only one who can rescue your heroic-villain from isolation and bad decisions is the right heroine.  Speaking of which:

5)      Their heroines should be as strong as they are-  How she reacts to the heroic-villain and how she understands him will shape how the reader does.  You can’t have her cowering until the final page of the book, afraid to stand up for herself.  She has to meet him as an equal.  It’s the only way he’ll learn and they only way to keep the audience engaged in their relationship.  Now, if your heroine isn’t a naturally assertive, that’s okay.  I couldn’t make Ty in Exile in the Water Kingdom start yelling at Gion right off.  That’s not who she is.  But, I made sure that she didn’t let him push her around.  When she stopped talking to him, it made him more insane than if she’d punched him.  The point being, you can find something that works for your characters.

In closing, heroic-villains are the character I tend to write the most.  I’m drawn to them and their slew of problems.  I would encourage all writers to try writing one and see what developed.  Remember, bad guys need love, too.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wicked Ugly Bad is now available

Cassandra Gannon's next book Wicked Ugly Bad is now available for purchase on Amazon!

Once Upon a Time…

Scarlett Riding is NOT an ugly stepsister. Cinderella is the evil one in the family and Letty is determined to prove it. Unfortunately, that’s kinda hard to do from behind bars. After the debacle at the ball, Letty and her sister Dru were dragged off to the Wicked, Ugly and Bad Mental Health Treatment Center and Maximum Security Prison. While Cindy’s planning her dream wedding, her two stepsisters are being forced to endure life in the dreariest dungeon in the land.

Luckily, Letty has a plan to change that unhappy ending. If she can just get to Prince Charming and prove the glass slipper doesn’t fit Cinderella’s foot, she can reclaim her life. In order to do that, though, she needs to convince The Big Bad Wolf to lend a hand in organizing a jailbreak.

Marrok Wolf isn’t sure what to make of the idealistic redhead in his group therapy sessions. With fifty counts of Badness on his criminal record, Marrok’s used to being surrounded by crooks and scumbags. Scarlett wants to lecture him about equal rights for trolls! When the little do-gooder comes up with an elaborate plan to break their entire “share circle” out of prison, though, Marrok is certainly willing to go along with the plot. And not just because he wants to see her naked. The woman may not be wicked, ugly, or Bad, but she’s definitely the only one who can save him.

Together with a wicked witch, a timid bridge ogre, an evil prince, and other villains straight out of a storybook, Scarlett and Marrok are about to make sure that Baddies finally have a happily ever after.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Tips for designing your own self-published romance novel cover

I thought it might be helpful to break down the cover to Cassandra Gannon's next novel, Wicked Ugly Bad to give you a look at the process behind its creation.  My hope is that it will allow other self-published authors to see they can design their own covers on Kindle or anywhere else, without having to pay hefty fees to graphic artists.

The cover began life as a trip to the grocery store, and a bag filled with different kinds of apple.  As I said in my last post on cover design, the most important thing is to have the picture you need.  Rather than searching the internet for public domain apple pictures, it was easier to just go out and find cool looking apples.  Cassandra arranged them in my light box until she got a layout she liked (the shot is actually from overhead, they only look like they're falling or stacked) and took the pic.  

From there it was simply a matter of carefully cutting around the edges of the apples in Photoshop and removing the background.  Once this was done, I usually blow the picture up to several times the scale of the published cover (I set it to 500% on this one) and clean up the edges.  Use the blur tool to fill in any tiny areas you took too much off of, and the eraser to get rid of extra bits.

Then I blurred the edged of the apples, simply because I think leaving them as stark lines makes the finished book choppy looking.  This image was then put on a black background at 96% opacity, layered over a seperate white background.  This allows 4% of the white background to show through the black one, and provides some contrast.  I added a drop shadow to the apples, put in the text, and was done. 


In total, the time spent on designing the cover was about an hour, not counting the time at the store or shooting the picture.  Still, with a custom cover design like this, and the unique photos it requires, cover designers online would probably charge in the $200+ range.  Now, I can't guarantee that mine is better than theirs, but I can say that I'm happier with the cover I designed and the $200 in my purse than I would be with any cover they could have done.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

New Paranormal / Fantasy Romance Novel

A sneak peak at the cover to Cassandra Gannon's next book, "Wicked Ugly Bad" which should be coming out over the weekend.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Star Turtle Publishing February Sales Figures

Well, it's that time again.  Let's open up the books and see how our titles are doing...

This month, Chason continues his domination of the charts, with Queen of the Magnetland outselling everything else almost 2 to 1.  Pretty impressive, really.

Here's how it stands for February 2013:
1. Queen of the Magnetland
2. Treasure of the Fire Kingdom
3. Warrior from the Shadowland
4. Guardian of the Earth House
5. Exile in the Water Kingdom
6. Not Another Vampire Book
7. Yesterday's Heroes
8. The Guy Your Friends Warned You About
9. The Son of Sun and Sand

Overall sales leaderboard:
1. Warrior from the Shadowland
2. Guardian of the Earth House
3. Not Another Vampire Book
4. Treasure of the Fire Kingdom
5. Exile in the Water Kingdom
6. Queen of the Magnetland
7. Yesterday's Heroes
8. The Son of Sun and Sand
9. The Guy Your Friends Warned You About

So, another month where Cassie outsells me.  I thought we talked about this in December, people?  ;- )