Tag Archives: Dark Lord Academy

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.

A Recipe for Disaster is released!

Well, it’s all up and finalized!  A Recipe for Disaster is officially out and I have it on a free promotion on amazon for the ebook version through the weekend, so if you have a kindle account, grab it while you can.  Print is also all formatted and out if you like it that way.  I’m really excited to finally be releasing something new. I’m a bit slow on that.  Eventually I’ll get the nook and smashwords versions up, but since I haven’t finished formatting that, I have decided to go 3 months on amazon select before doing that.

A page on this site for it with sample, etc, will be forthcoming, but for now, I’ll just slap up the blurb!  I want to thank my wonderful crew of critiquers on Critique Circle for helping me get this ready, and my awesome editor at Word Vagabond editing, and my very talented cover artist, Leo DeBruyn.

“A Recipe for Disaster” is set in the same world as the Dark Lord Academy series, and is the first of a number of spin-off shorter novels/stories that I hope to write.  And hopefully you’ll find it as amusing as I did writing it, because I sure had a blast this summer, contrary to my fighting with my sequel.  This thing practically wrote itself.

Blurb: Villain apprentice Cal desperately needs cash to take his girlfriend to the Dreaded Ball. Prince Bueford needs out of an arranged marriage. Mullog, Bueford’s manservant, would love to marry the princess and has the perfect solution: Bueford can buy a potion for disaster from Cal to disrupt the betrothal. Then Mullog can rescue the princess, and everyone can live happily ever after.

How could a little disaster go wrong?

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.

Character Motivations, Rats, and Alien Invader Lilies

The Dark Chariot makes a return in "A Recipe for Disaster."

Doing an Nanowrimo in the summer has sort of stolen my brain this month as far as blogging goes. It seems these ideas come from the same place, no matter what I’m writing. So, I’ve decided to compromise and blog about the novel, despite most advice I’ve read suggesting that you don’t discuss your works in progress—apparently you’re less likely to finish things if you spend time talking about them to others (no wonder I never get anything done). But considering Nano is going surprisingly well, I’m going to risk it.

Anyway, I’ve tried to write this story as a short story, then as a novella several times, but always got stuck after just a few paragraphs. It had a great set-up, but I wasn’t sure where it went. Generally when I get ideas I consider them complete and ready to start poking when I have a beginning, end, main character, and a sense of the main character’s arc. The trouble was, with “A Recipe for Disaster” the plot wasn’t about the main character, really, or not the set-up I had started with. I knew where the young villain Cal started, finished, and what his character arc was, but what about the title disaster? It happened to other people, people I didn’t know… nor was I sure what happened to them.

So, the months kept passing with it not getting written and I realized I was going to have to do something about it, or it wasn’t going to happen. I figured if what I wanted was a 25,000 word novella, surely writing 50,000 words of mess, plotting, planning, and different possibilities of what the story might be would be more than enough words to get it done, right? And I could always stop early if I actually, but some miracle got the story done before the end of the month. Despite all this logic, I wasn’t sure this would work. Yet, under pressure, I was determined to find a way to plan and write the story.

On my walks I’ve been taking in the morning, I’ve discovered it’s the perfect time to plot a bit, ruminate on random possibilities for the story. I used to walk in the afternoon, but it’s hotter and I’m a good deal more tired, and so I wouldn’t get any ideas. Switching to first thing in the morning made a huge difference. I imagining different possibilities about who Bueford and the unnamed princess of Seaward might be. I had a lot of false starts, and originally called the princess Mistella, but switched it after a bit of rearranging to Jinella. Bueford went from crafty to rather pathetic, and an actual villain (although he thinks of himself as a hero) showed up: Mullog (the reasons the princess got a different letter at the beginning of her name).

Still, I needed something extra to boost thing, create some excitement. Now my good friend Jeff used to keep a rat when I was in college. Her name was Agnes and I discovered from visiting him every week to practice for our church music group, that rats make rather delightful pets. They have an unfortunate reputation and are always the villains in Brian Jacques’s well-know Redwall series, so it seemed natural and fun to give my young villain a pet rat.

Then, my sister Juliana was in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” recently and I had enjoyed the play. I found that instead of my novel going through my head while walking (the kids did a terrific job of the play), and suddenly, the full disastrous nature of the disaster hit me: Prince Bueford was going to end up with a rat head. From there it was an easy jump to think that perhaps Cal’s pet rat would switch forms with the prince and look like a human, and add some needed tension into Cal’s disastrous date with a love triangle… and to my surprise, my plot was working itself out.

Shakespeare is always awesome.

Its calm exterior is deceiving.

Of course I can’t always be writing, I’m supposed to keep up the yard of our rental. Well, this morning I found something rather disturbing. They just might be in the lily family, but they also might be alien invaders from a strange planet. I’m not sure exactly what these things are, but boy are they creepy. And someone thought they’d look good and actually planted them? My mind is a bit boggled.

Hopefully they will not transform into deadly pods and kill me in my sleep.

My Sort of Camp

The trouble with being a writer, is that I end up wanting to constantly be on my computer… something that doesn’t mix very well with the great outdoors.  While I love camping, I also end up deeply computer (and internet) deprived by the end of it… wanting my novels, my characters, and my roll-playing back.

So, I decided to go to virtual camp: Camp Nanowrimo.  Where most of the time what you do is write, set things on fire in the forums, and trade stories on who’s characters are the worst.  This is Camp Nanowrimo’s second year of existence and it’s still relatively small as a group.  You get placed in a cabin of six members, four of which never showed up, so Lyn and I live a rather quiet existence in our adjoining bunk beds, writing away.  At least I’m note entirely alone.

It’s felt good to be writing again.  I’ve picked a pesky novella, on the theory that 50,000 words is far too long so I’m bound to at least finish it before the month if I keep up to word count.  Over 18,000 words in however, the end is still not in sight.  Good thing this one is intended for an indie publication as a humorous 0.99 novella set in the same world as the Dark Lord Academy series, so I don’t have to explain to anyone else why its so long winded.  It’s called ” A Recipe for Disaster” and as a story, it’s certainly living up to its title.  None of the characters will behave, the plot won’t get its act together, and Kink, the MC’s pet rat insists on trying to steal the story.  In hopes more characters might ease the problem I’ve ended up with villain who wants to be a hero, a hero who wants to be a villain, and a princess who keeps changing her name.  Sigh.  It’s life as usual, as far as being a novelist goes.

On the bright side, if someone burns the cabin down (as happened last time I was at a real camp), at least my novel will be safely backed up on google docs.

Here’s the current blurb, and a very rough excerpt, the ones I have on the Camp Nano website:

Dark Lord apprentice Cal needs some quick cash, Prince Bueford needs out of an arranged marriage–it’s an alliance built on mutual self-serving motives. Maybe Cal hasn’t completed much of his training yet, and sure his reading skills are a little rusty, but how hard can cooking up a little disaster be?

Excerpt:

Chapter 1
Cal Experiments in Cooking

Cal peered out the tower window, scanning the narrow streets below. Cartwheels clacked against the cobblestones, and people pushed and shoved their way through while the drivers shouted, but Master Xorgos was nowhere in sight. Dark Lord and Dread Wizard of Renown Evil, he wouldn’t take kindly to his apprentice trying to make some extra cash on the side using his evil spells.

Cal wiped his sweaty palms down his black robe and swallowed hard. He needed some money if he was going to take Loestra to the Dreaded Ball this weekend like he’d promised. She’d dump him for sure if he didn’t.

Pushing the window shut to keep out the flies, Cal turned back to the workroom before him. Master Xorgos had impressed upon him the task of scrubbing the floor while he was gone, in preparation for new evil experiments. He would be gone for the weekend, collecting esoteric new ingredients. Ingredients, Cal was sure, that would require cataloging, pouring carefully into glass jars, and organizing meticulously onto the shelves of the workroom closet. All dull tasks left to him as a dark apprentice.

Cal had plans of his own however. He’d made a deal with Prince Bueford of Buckland to brew him up some sort of disaster he could unleash at the courtly presentation of the Princess of Seaward. Apparently Bueford didn’t want to marry her, and considering the princess’s temper tantrums when she didn’t get her way were legendary, Cal didn’t blame him. But not only did Bueford not have the money to pay for a little disaster formally from Master Xorgos, it was hardly evil enough that the Dark Lord would bother. Wiping out innocent villages with an army of instant minions, setting monsters on capital cities, and instituting periods of Global Darkness was more his style.

“Cal, Cal, you need to think bigger, eviller,” Master Xorgos always told him. “A Dark Lord and Dread Wizard of Renown Evil doesn’t deal in petty pranks. Only potions of mass destruction.”

“Which is why we live in a backwater little port like this, right?” Cal muttered to himself. He scooped up his pet rat, Kink, from the windowsill and set him on his shoulder to keep him out of trouble. “Well, I don’t care about what’s eviller, I care about making al ittle money.”

Kink twitched his bent tail, for which he was named and tried checking Cal’s front pocket for treats.

Ignoring the rat, Cal searched the old, musty books lining the shelves of Master Xorgos’ workroom.  Surely one of them had a decent enough recipe for disaster.  Heck, now that he’d been an apprentice for nearly two years, Master Xorgos had him restock all the ingredients into their carefully arranged glass vials; he knew where everything was.  He eased out a likely looking book and set it gently on the worktable.  How hard could this be?

It wasn’t as if it mattered to Cal if he became a Dark Lord himself; he was only here because Ma and Pa had too many mouths to feed and wanted the apprentice money Master Xorgos sent them. Cal never saw a penny of it. If that wasn’t evil, he didn’t know what was! But Loestra went to Dark Lord Academy and had filthy rich parents in an alternate dimension that had year round tropical weather. If he married her, his fortune was made.

“Death. Defeat. Des—truc—tion.” Cal sounded out the recipes one by one looking for the right one. He’d only learned to read after he’d been apprenticed. The fifth son of a tanner didn’t get much education. “Disaster.” He squinted at the ingredient list. The book read:

The amount of disaster created is directly proportional to the amount of mischief and stupidity. And is inversely proportional to the amount of common sense added. For large disasters, also add copious amounts of instability, while for smaller ones use half a measure of miscommunication mixed with half a measure of greed. Procrastination and a dash of irony may sweeten the disaster, but be careful. Too much and your disaster might be postponed indefinitely. Malicious intent can also be used to great effect, but overdone tends to result in too purposeful of carnage for a true disaster.

“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