Tag Archives: A School for Villains

An Attack of “The Next Big Thing”

One interesting part of being part of an active critique group is when there’s a blog hop, sometimes everyone around me ends up doing it.  My friend  Michele Shriver first tagged me with “The Next Big Thing” last month (11/7), only Nanowrimo combined with the actor question in this blog hop meant that I never finished it.  She was really low key about it, so afterwards I just said to myself, oh well, and kept typing.

Well…

On 12/12, another friend, Katie Stewart also tagged me with the same blog hop. I was going to get it together… but didn’t. And then, right before Christmas, what do I find but that Kelly Walker has also tagged me with this.  So, taking a deep breath, I decided to actually look up child actors and finally do this.  Here goes:

What is the working title of Your Book?

Much Ado About Villains

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Shakespeare.  Which ought to be obvious from the title.  But to be fair, there’s also a healthy dose of JK Rowling and JRR Tolkien involved as well.  This is a Harry Potter spoof that draws on high fantasy cliches and popular culture as well, and I can’t think of a better thing to meld that with than Shakespeare, honestly.

What genre does your book fall under?

Comic fantasy or satire.  It’s upper middle grade or younger YA too, I suppose, but I always take that for granted in a book. The book has it’s own full story, so it’s not a strict satire, but can come close at times.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?

This is the question that tripped me up most, because I have no idea what child actors are around anymore.  All my former choices are far too old now. But after some net searching, I have decided on Dakota Goyo for my lead MC, Danny.  For his supporting friend, Daisy, I discovered a huge shortage of 13 year old black female actors.  This saddens me, although Willow Smith, daughter of the famous Will Smith is happily the perfect age.  Even harder was finding an Asian actor at 13 for Aun, Danny’s best friend and sometimes rival. After searching google images to find someone current and not a former child actor, I found Korean Seo Yeong-joo-I who looks the part.

At least the older students were easier to pick, I decided Sarah Hyland for Queleria, the beautiful girl Danny and Aun fall in love with, and Kenton Duty for Demigorth the popular boy who steals her attention.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’ve just written 50K this past Nanowrimo, but I’m still not done with my first draft.  I think I need to rework the outline and then fit the scenes together in a different order and rework them also.  The novel is being difficult, sigh.  I’m hoping to hash it out though over the next couple of months.  My goal is to have a full first draft by the beginning of March.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Book one started as a mix between the play “A School for Scandal,” “Harry Potter,” and “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”  I wanted to bring in some new elements, although Harry Potter satire will be a major part of the series as a whole, and the style of the sequel will be the same as book one (A School for Villains).

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

“Dark Lord Academy” started as a series because of talking about Harry Potter with my brother Jonathan. I’ve always enjoyed doing satires, and writing about an evil magic school, where everyone becomes villains sounded like hilarious fun. I wrote the first novel for my brother as a Christmas present, and somehow along the way during revisions, it turned into a six book series. I suppose it was villainous that way.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, let’s see… it’s got demon horses that breathe fire and like eating coal as a treat and run gymkhana courses, a teenage demon boy who secretly listens to chant and drinks holy water, and true love Shakespeare style (yes, death is definitely included).

As so many people have tagged me with this, I don’t have anyone to tag back, and figure it’s run its course by now anyway… but if you read this and want to adopt it, drop me a note and I will next Wednesday promote your blog as if I tagged you.

Happy Birthday to “A School for Villains”

I have again, a lot to celebrate this Halloween.  Today marks “A School for Villains” first birthday.  I’ve had quite the year with Danny and Dark Lord Academy as I’ve fumbled around trying to figure out marketing, gave up on it, and then tried again, as well as tried to write a sequel and failed, and then wrote a completely unexpected spin-off book.

Despite all the starts and stops, I feel like I’ve had a very successful year. I’ve sold 33 print and 162 e-copies, and for someone who’s rather hit and miss on the marketing front I feel like that’s pretty dang good (gosh, look at that, that month I joined a blog tour I sold twice as many copies, wow).

As I go into my second year with Dark Lord Academy, I’m hoping to really come into my own with both writing the series and the promotion thing.  It’s nice to add up the numbers and have something concrete to celebrate.

“A Recipe for Disaster” Cover Preview

Well, I didn’t post last week because I was on vacation at the Oregon Coast with family.  I had a fantastic time, but caught a cold, which has slowed me down this week.  However, my artist has just finished my cover for my new book, and I’m really excited about it, so here it is!

We wanted to catch an “eww” expression on Cal’s face while mixing up the disaster.  I think that does that perfectly.  We also wanted something that would be connected to “A School for Villains” but not so similar that it would get mistaken for the sequel.  This novel is in the same “world” (or rather multiverse in this case since its a multi-dimensional world) as the Dark Lord Academy books, but is a completely separate cast of characters.

I can’t afford inside art as of yet, but I’m hoping that if the book does well I can add chapter headings or a couple of interiors eventually.  I’m planning to put this out in both print and e-book format, although it’ll be a shorter, chapter book, rather than a full length middle grade novel.

I’m currently in revisions in my group Critique Circle, after which I have to find an editor I can afford (my wonderful editor from my last book appears to have moved on and is no longer editing indie books).  I’m hoping for a fall release date in October or November and will keep that updated.  It’ll depend on how revisions and edits go.

Meet My Illustrator — Leo DeBruyn

My illustrator, Leo DeBruyn has decided to formally start offering illustration and cover design services for sale.  You can take a look at his website here.  As well as showing off some of the art he’s done for me, I’ve interviewed him today.  I have to say, I’ve been thrilled with his art for “A School for Villains” and I’m saving up so he can illustrate book 2 for me as well.

What’s the best part of what you do?

My favorite part of the illustration process is probably the early composition stage, where I pick out the colors and shapes, define the negative space, and adjust the framing of the image. If I can make it exciting and interesting at that point, I know that the final image will be good. Later, changes will be more costly, but at the start I can try all sorts of different things. A close runner up is when I’m adding the details at the end. At that point, I already like the image and I’m just making it better. I am a bit of a perfectionist, so I will keep tweaking until I am satisfied.

What’s your favorite style of illustration? Which mediums do you prefer?

I like variety, but generally gravitate toward colorful images that are believable but not ultra-realistic. I want them to have charm and be visually interesting.

Overall, I prefer digital illustration because of the freedom that it gives me and the time it saves. These days, everything ends up digital, so it saves a few steps if you start out that way. The power of layers lets me experiment and easily mask things off– saving a ton of time. And of course, undo works better than any eraser yet invented.

When I am not working digitally, my favorite medium is crayons on paper. I like the brightness of the colors, and the versatility. You can sharpen them down to a fine point or put them on their side and fill in a space. And they are cheap, so you can have buckets of them and just play around. If you apply them in layers, you can get a very smooth and brilliant layer of wax that has a wonderful sense of depth and radiance to it. And you can also mix them with wax-based colored pencils if you need more detail. Plus, it’s kind of a kick to see people’s reaction when you take materials most people associate with children and do something that impresses them.

What’s your favorite thing to draw?

As a kid, I preferred animals. In art school, I went to the zoo a lot, and some of my favorite drawings were of penguins and bears, using a Japanese brush that allowed me to capture the entire animal with a couple of brush strokes. Since animals move around a lot, it was a great way to capture them quickly before they changed poses. I also like drawing people and interesting architecture, especially castles and spacecraft. Dragons and armor are always fun, too.

Who are some illustrators you admire or have inspired your work?

I love the work of many illustrators. Some of them have influenced how I draw, others just inspire me and fire up my imagination. My mother is an illustrator and definitely had a large impact on my style. Other illustrators that I enjoy include Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss, Leo and Diane Dillon, Quentin Blake, James Marshall, and William Steig. There are so many more, but I’m not going to turn this into an epic list.

For your personal work, where do you find inspiration?

Stories inspire me. That’s really what illustration is all about. A story comes to life in an illustration. I like to read a lot, and I have even done illustrations of my own life story in various diaries and journals over the years.

The human form also inspires me. What is amazing about it is that human beings love images of people, but they are really hard to get right because we have an innate understanding of the human form that makes us notice even tiny details that are wrong. It also subtly informs our idea of beauty and ugliness in everything, even inanimate objects. I have found the human body to be both inspiring and challenging. Drawing it makes me into a better artist every time, even if my next piece of work has no people in it.

Elaborate on your education, experience and skills.

I grew up drawing and painting in a very creative home. My mother is an artist and my siblings and I spent a lot of time creating art with her as children. When I grew up, I went to art school and studied computer animation. That is what really got me going with digital illustration. But I also spent a fair amount of time working with traditional media. Some other mediums that I enjoy are acrylic paint, wood and linoleum block prints, paper cutting and folding, and sculpting in clay, wire, and paper.

While I have produced a lot of art over the years, I haven’t done a lot of commercial illustration because I’ve been so busy designing video games for the last decade. I am trying to focus more on my art now because I really enjoy it and want to live a more balanced creative life.

For digital art, what programs do you use?

I use Photoshop, GIMP, Inkscape, Flash, Blender… it all depends on what I’m making and where I happen to be at the moment. I work in both vector and raster images, depending on the style and needs of the project.

What services do you offer and what are your rates? What are looking for in a project?

Currently I’m offering cover creation services. This can range from a simple layout and graphic design for your e-book cover using stock photos, to a full blown print-resolution cover with a custom illustration. Since I’m relatively new to this, and I’d like to work with up and coming authors, I am trying to keep my rates reasonable. All of my work is entirely custom (I don’t use templates), so your price will depend on what your needs are.

For example, an e-book cover with your name and title on it in a nice-looking font and color scheme, with a photo image, might be around $50, plus whatever the photo costs to license. If you have your own photo, or want me to find you a free royalty-free image, then there’d be no extra charge for the picture.

On the other end of the spectrum, a print-resolution cover with all the same layout and typography, as well as a highly detailed custom digital illustration containing an iconic scene or image from your book may cost you $400, depending on how detailed of an image you want. I can also do it in a different medium if you prefer. Really like woodblock prints? How about a photo of an origami bird floating on the water? Just let me know what you’re thinking and I’ll give you a quote.

I’d also like to point out that while I enjoy being creative, my ultimate goal with illustration is to please my client. I don’t mind doing an image in a particular style that you really like. If there’s another image out there that you like the look of and you want something similar, send a link to me and I’ll see what I can do.

Tell us about your non-illustration projects. What else do you enjoy doing?

I’m a game designer, so I spend a lot of time making video games. Some of this is basically programming, but sometimes it involves creating art. Just in the last few weeks I started playing around with something called

NeoTextureEdit to make procedural images of wood and stone surfaces for a game. It’s almost a game in and of itself tweaking knobs and typing numbers to create art.

I also enjoy writing. I’m hoping to get some of my own stories published soon.

***

 

A Villainous Halloween

I’ve set the date for “A School for Villains” to be released on the auspicious day of Halloween.  It seems the perfect date for a villainous debut.

To celebrate I’m going to take a look at what makes a good (or is that bad) villain.  While not every story features a villain, many good stories have one.  A villain keeps the story moving, throws all sorts of challenges at the heroes, and sometimes, completely steals the show.

It seems to me there’s several sorts of villains.  Some of them are despicable, others pitiable, and some even sympathetic.  Some are nearly all powerful, others weak and paltry.  Yet they all have one thing in common, they’re out to stop the main characters from getting what they want.

Here’s some my favorites in a few of my mental categories:

Distant All-evil and Powerful Villains

These guys are big, bad, and often ugly.  They lurk like an evil force throughout the book spurring everyone on to save the world from their evil plans.  Usually these guys are set on world/universe domination, but sometimes they’re just making everyone miserable for the fun of it.  You don’t know why they’re evil, they just ARE.  And they’re out to get you.

Some of my favorites include Sauron (Lord of the Rings), Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars), Arawn Death Lord (Prydian Cronicles), Maleficent (Disney Sleeping Beauty), Shan Yu (Disney Mulan) and the White Witch (Naria).

Beleaguered Villains with Entitlement Issues

These guys are trying hard to belong to the first category. They  desperately want to be all evil and all powerful, but whether they’re beset by incompetent minions, stumble into some bad plans, or just have bad luck, things keep not going their way, no matter how evil they are.  They continually have to prove they deserve their villainous title, all the while smacking the idiots they’ve surrounded themselves by.  Yet, even if they are really at heart, evil, you can’t help but sort of like them and admire their determination to get what they feel like they deserve.  My favorites in this category include: Cluny the Scourage (Redwall), Jafar (Disney Aladin), Scar (Disney The Lion King), and Darth Vader (Star Wars).

Mistaken Villains

These guys are are convinced they’re doing the Right Thing.  The trouble is, they’re wrong.  Sometimes they figure that out, sometimes they don’t.  These villains end up in a gray area, because sometimes evil isn’t straightforward.  Are they justified or not?  They make the argument they’re just doing their job, or working for something that’s also good.  Some prime examples include: Prince Ramses (Dreamworks Prince of Egypt), Attolia (The Thief, The Queen of Attolia), Ratcliffe (Disney Pocahontas) and Mother Gothel (Disney Tangled).

Miserable Villains

These guys are pitiful in their misery, but they can’t let go of what they think they want and be happy.  They’re struggling, and you normally would feel sorry for them, except they then turn around and do nasty stuff to other people you like more.  They just can’t let go of what’s ruining their lives, often their pride.  Some of my favorites here include: Gollum (Lord of the Rings), Prince Zuko (Avatar: The Last Airbender), and Captain Hook (Peter Pan).

Oh, and just for fun, here’s the Disney Villain Kombat.

Who’s your favorite villain?

“A School for Villains” From Concept to Publication

Every book has a unique journey and I thought in the final stages of production, I’d share the one for “A School for Villains.”

I have a long history of writing satirical pieces for friends and family.  In college,  I won an English award for the satirical epic poem “The Chronicle of Sir Morseau de Fromage” written in fakely translated verse, complete with an un-scholarly introduction.  I’ve written several goofy and satirical short stories, several of which have been published in online magazines, and often my “serious” fiction also tended to have some satirical elements, such as the colored wizard names in “Chosen Sister” and the long troll names in the still under revision “Dragon Boy.”  However, I had yet to write a full length satirical work, until the idea of a magic school for villains that taught kids how to become Dark Lords came to me while joking around about Harry Potter.

I’m an avid Harry Potter fan.  The books already have some great humor in them, and a wonderful tone that’s a pleasure to read.  So, I had no intention of attacking or tearing them down, but rather wanted to use their conventions as a launching off pad for my own creative satire, poking fun at the whole “bad guy-good guy” dynamic in so many fantasy worlds.  I had already committed to writing “Chosen Sister” as a gift for my sister that year for Nanowrimo (2006) and decided at the same time to attempt to write “A School for Villains” as a fun joke gift for my brother.

I got horribly stuck.  Full length satire turned out a lot more difficult than I expected.  I got about 2/3 of the way through the book by the end of the month.  To motivate myself to keep playing with the idea and finish it, I made a plan.  Some people find working just for fun motivating, but I tend to want to write for an audience, so I planned to finish the book the next year, run it through my critique group, then submit it to agents as practice for facing rejection for my more serious work.  After 30 rejections (and hopefully with a new and serious project  ready) I would self-publish it on the web with print copies offered for sale.  If I sold 10,000 copies I would write a sequel.

Following through on the plan turned out a lot harder and more involved than I could have imagined, not to mention some major changes in me, the book, and the industry in these past five years.

First and foremost, I fell in love with my book as serious project at some point within the revision and critiquing process.  I found the characters were not just satirical, but also real people.  The plot wasn’t just mockery, but a true coming of age story, with room for a lot more in it.  The novel offered a humorous but very real world, rather similar to Patricia Wrede’s satirical “Enchanted Forest Chronicles” in tone.  A world that was self-aware of fairy tale conventions and thus bent on making people conform to them and their often ridiculous perspectives.

And then, when I started sending the book out, I got such positive reactions, despite the rejections.  Several times thanks to helpful comments from agents I reworked and deepened the book.  I really fell in love with the idea of seeing it out there entertaining people as well as actually saying something worth saying.  Taking my book seriously, however, had downsides.  I got wrapped up in the rejections.  They hurt and discouraged me.  They made me question myself and ask hard questions, despite their mostly positive tone.

Twenty five rejections in, I started noticing some trends.  Agents kept citing the economy being tight and the fact satire is a niche market.  They were concerned there weren’t many appropriate editors looking to acquire a book like this one, or if there were, they weren’t editors they knew or had connections to.

At this point, so much has also changed in the industry.  E-books have taken off and opened up niche markets.  I found on Amazon at least two other authors who had published Harry Potter satires and both looked like they were selling well.  After some hard thinking about my book, I decided to return to my original plan and go ahead and self-publish the novel.  After all, when I’d started out, this work was just for fun, something I wanted to share with fellow Harry Potter fans for a laugh.  And I felt looking at the other satirical offerings that my novel could offer something new and deeper to that audience.

Having had a deal with an online press with “Chosen Sister,” I also had considerable more experience than my early plans.  I now knew what having an editor could do for my work and how many times a novel has to get proofed in order to actually get all the typos out of it.  I knew that I had to have a commitment to a high quality product if I was going to do this and sign my name to it.  I considered finding a small press for the novel, but I wanted to follow my original plan and have more artistic control.  I wanted my novel to be properly illustrated like most traditional middle grade novels.

So, I hired an artist and editor, researched indie publishing, and now am in the final stages of proofing the book.  It’s been an amazing and very educational journey and in the next couple of weeks I’ll have a book I can be really proud of.  I don’t have a firm release date, since I’m still waiting on some of the art, but it’s definitely worth the wait.  I hope to have the book on sale sometime in the next couple weeks.

Through all of this, I’ve learned that sometimes humor can be serious business.  I’ve learned to believe in myself and face rejection. I’ve learned that making a plan and following it is useful, inspiring, and can help give me perspective on myself and life.  I still plan to pursue traditional publishing with my other work, both serious and humorous, but I’m also thrilled to be able to have the means to share a more niche work with readers.

And yes, if I sell 10,000 copies, in any format, I will write a sequel.

Cover for “A School for Villains”

I just got my cover back from my artist (the very talented Leo DeBruyn) for “A School for Villains”.  The book is in production and will be released on October first.  I’m really excited about this!

The cover captures the story perfectly, a strong satirical novel with plenty of humor and yet a villain (or is it hero?) you can root for.  In tone, it’s a bit like “Despicable Me” or “Megamind” with a Harry Potter type school setting.

Here’s the blurb:

Thirteen-year-old Danny is astounded when his father decides to send him to Dark Lord Academy to learn to be a villain. Pa claims it will make him stand out and fulfill his own lost childhood dreams. Being evil doesn’t appeal to Danny, but he’s always been a good and obedient son, so he goes.

Dark Lord Academy’s not just unappealing, it’s downright terrible. His advisor dyes Danny’s blond hair black and changes his name to the unpronounceable Zxygrth. He can’t get the hang of maniacal laughter, his second-in-command servant is a puke-colored monkey, and the cafeteria lady enjoys serving stewed cockroaches or fried bat wings. A run in with a hero results in hate mail and he gets caught up in a rivalry with the school bully.  The only way for Danny to stay alive is to find his inner villain.

Read Chapter one

 

Quarter Finalist on Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

“A School for Villains” is a quarter finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.   I got two very helpful and friendly reviews from the Vine Reviewers and I was quite pleased.  I’m also thoroughly bouncy about the idea of getting my first professional review from Publishers Weekly.  Too bad April 24 is so long away!

Here’s a bit about my novel:

Thirteen-year-old Danny is astounded when his father decides to send him to Dark Lord Academy to learn to be a villain. Pa claims it will make him stand out and fulfill his own lost childhood dreams. Being evil doesn’t appeal to Danny, but he’s always been a good and obedient son, so he goes.Dark Lord Academy’s not just unappealing, it’s downright terrible. His advisor dyes Danny’s blond hair black and changes his name to the unpronounceable Zxygrth. He can’t get the hang of maniacal laughter, his second-in-command servant is a puke-colored monkey, and the cafeteria lady enjoys serving stewed cockroaches or fried bat wings. A run in with a hero results in hate mail and he gets caught up in a rivalry with the school bully. Danny’s determined to get expelled, but when he accidentally kills Professor Screkvox, his History teacher, he’s given an award instead.Screkvox, revived by the professor of Necromancy, is now out for revenge and a failing grade in History hardly qualifies. The only way for Danny to stay alive is to find his inner villain.

Here’s some snippets of what my reviewers had to say:

“The light, slightly tongue in cheek tone of this excerpt is fun and a joy to read. This is a great twist on Hogwarts and why shouldn’t there be an academy for villains? Love the details–like the the Dark Lord Academy’s brochure, only first, third and seventh sons need apply to the hero academy, and that it’s twice as expensive.”

“The novel concerns The Dark Lord Academy, a school for villains set in a mythological, perhaps parallel universe. Danny, a young thirteen year old boy, stumbles across a recruiting pamplet for the Academy. The pamphlet is hilarious. It dispels Dark Lord myths one by one in the manner one would normally see from a snake oil salesman. If this novel keeps up and further develops the funny tone, and avoids taking itself too seriously, the novel will be a funny read.”

An excerpt is now available for download on Amazon Kindle as well!