What a day it’s been

Well, I’m back. Mom’s home and settled in. I just helped her from her recliner to the bed so she can get a nap. All in all, the transfer home went as well, if not better, than either of us hoped for. But, after three weeks in the hospital/rehab, it took a lot out of her. The fact she is having to rely on a walker or wheelchair to get around and that I have to be there with her is not helping her independence streak one bit. But being home will be good for her–as long as I keep her remembering she can’t do everything on her own just yet. Now to wait for home health to call and get that set up.

Now, I promised you guys a post. I suppose you want one that is more than a “whaaaaa?” which is about as much coherence as I have in me right now. So I’m going to take a look at some of your suggestions and see if I can string a few cogent thoughts together.

Harryvoyager wanted some thoughts on “how one builds good villians and good villainous schemes.” I’ll be honest, I look at what’s going on around me, either now or in the past. I was in my mid-20s when I learned true evil really exists. Worse, it existed in someone who looked exactly like the sort of young man you might want your son or daughter bringing home. This fellow, who came across as soft-spoken, polite, caring, intelligent, was a cold-blooded killer. Worse, he was a child killer as well as a rapist, etc.

A lesser form of evil I came across around the same time–and one who, like the first one, I helped put in prison. This time, evil came in the form of a grandfatherly type of man who knew how to best use (and abuse) his power to take advantage of those he should have been protecting. I don’t know how many young women he raped or how many he impregnated. But the real evil came from his wife who got up on the stand and tried to convince the jury her SOB of a husband couldn’t have impregnated the 16-year-old he hired to clean his office because he couldn’t get it up. Forget the DNA reports. Forget the fact the girl could describe certain physical attributes only his wife or lover would know.

I may not have written anything with these two men’s crimes, but I have used parts of their personalities to help craft some of the antagonists in my books. Other inspiration comes from history books, etc. It can be found anywhere. The trick is finding a way to put your own spin on it.

Zsuzsza, sorry. I haven’t a clue about how to write an effective cover letter. I suck at them. Anyone here have any suggestions or who might be willing to read her letter and give her constructive criticism?

Teresa from Hershey. I have seen a couple of stories about AI writing of late but haven’t had a chance to really look at them. I’m not sure how I feel about it. Give me a chance to read the stories and I promise I’ll get you a post up about it in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks for all the good wishes. We’re hanging in but there are going to be good and bad days. Like so many others who have found themselves having to care for aging parents, I’m doing my best to make it work. For now, while she rests, I’m going to do the same.

Until later.

Oh yeah, the featured image is my own creation via Midjourney AI.

25 comments

  1. One thing with villains is that they need a reason for being who/what they are. I have been reading (off-again-on-again) a train-wreck of a paranormal romance series. Part of the rolling disaster, at least to me, is the PNR trope abuse. But the bad guys are the other problem. At first they were local, and built into the world building and lore of the stories. OK, that sort of worked. (Suspension of disbelief aside. But that’s PNR). Then we suddenly get a super-bad-boss-monster, with a lot of handwavium as to why he’s the super-bad-boss-monster. It didn’t work, not really, at least not for me. Apparently, the author went back and in later books explained what happened and why, but I’d stopped reading.

    Tl;dr – don’t drop a villain into the story without having a background and reasons for he/she/it/they to exist and be villains. Even if “because she’s nuttier than a Corsicana fruitcake and a lot more dangerous, and her daddy’s paying bribes to keep her out of the state asylum” is the reason.

    1. I do live in dread of dropping a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere into a story line. (So named from the final boss in a beatem-up game being a giant alien flea thing. The game, up until that point, had been about saving the main character’s girlfriend from a drug running gang.)

      Something like 2/3 of that fanfic project I finished up was driven by trying to avoid just that. Initial reports are positive. Will have to see the reaction once it gets into the wild.

    2. The problem with backstories is that the same backstory can be offered to “explain” very different characters.

    3. Also, there is the question of whether the POV characters would ever learn the background. If the hero never knows, it’s quite possible that the readers won’t, either.

      1. Yeah, I mean, Frodo and Sam and the reader do not need to know that stuff from the Morgoth’s Ring volume of History of Middle Earth where Tolkien says that Morgoth was all about chaos, but his acolyte Sauron was more about order, and might even, at some point in Sauron’s existence, been capable of deluding himself into thinking he was doing the right thing.

        The exact sequence of events leading to the Witch King of Angmar taking up one of the Nine Rings and becoming a Nazgul is not relevant to Eowyn or Merry, or apparently even Tolkien.

        From the point of view of an SF/F writer, you need a villain whose metaphysical nature and observable activities are accounted for by the in-universe lore (including why the in-universe loremasters haven’t mentioned him before, if that is an issue), whose motives can be interpreted at least somewhat correctly by human and human-adjacent beings, and whose behaviors will be recognizable to the reader in proportion to how human-adjacent the villain is. Whether the villains’ parents didn’t love him enough or someone other than the villain burned down his hometown when he was growing up, can be useful from a story-telling POV, depending on what type of being the villain is, but is not universally necessary.

  2. On the second, was the wife in denial, or was she actually involved?

    I’ve heard enough stories of people rejecting a reality they can’t cope with (up to and including “the plane is on fire and if I don’t leave now I’ll burn to death”) that I could see it being either ways, or a combination of both.

    1. Honestly, my gut is that she didn’t want to admit it even to herself because she liked her life the way it was. She could do whatever she wanted as long as she turned a blind eye to what he did. If she admitted it, she could have (and would have, because I know the DA at the time and they wanted blood over what happened) been charged as an accessory and not necessarily after the fact.

      1. Makes sense. I think I’ll probably learn more towards that style of villian in my stuff. What I’m noticing when I’m trying to work actions of the truly evil is it just sort of slides off. Like once someone is to the point where they view everyone else as cardboard cutouts, it’s more like facing a nameless faceless foe or a natural disaster or a simple wild animal than an antagonist.

        I could see how it could work in psychological horror though. Facing something that looks human, acts human, talks human, but has no more regard of the protagonist’s humanity than a wolf does a steak.

        For current project, I’m now thinking, since the protagonist is someone who views himself as a monster but isn’t, while the antagonist behaves like a monster, he still needs to have had the option to be something different. Essentially the villian is a villain as an act of revenge on the world. Garden variety evil wouldn’t be enough; he needs to bring the whole world down.

        That said, I could see the villain cultivating those types of evil as well. So, layers of villians.

  3. Unsolicited advice in regards to home health, lesson learned about this time last year: get the PCP to write the script and make it open-ended. Not just Y weeks or until milestone X, but as indefinite as possible. Insurance wants them off as fast as possible and will take whatever steps seem good in their little number crunching computers to make it so, but you want home health as long as possible unless you’re transitioning to hospice.

    1. Unfortunately I find that more and more these days it doesn’t seem to matter whether the script is open ended or not, insurance sets X amount of time for home health. If you want it extended, the physical therapist/home nurse needs to provide a report explaining why it needs to be extended, what the goals of their treatment are, and how long they expect it to take. But forewarned is forearmed, so take notes as that data will bolster your case.

      1. Right, but if it’s for three weeks originally or until a milestone they can’t get it extended even if it would be beneficial. Or at least Dad’s couldn’t, and his doc tried and the home health nurses and physical and occupational therapists tried.

        Makes me think that nursing homes must be cheaper somehow than home care.

        1. Not cheaper. The problem is that the Center for Medicare Services (CMS) has rules for extending care, and any blowback will hit the plan, the doctor, and other health care personnel with penalties. Has to do with reducing the cost of health care (I know, I know), and the way the rules are set, the goal is to offload the patient from any care ASAP. It counts as a bad thing if the PT/rehab gets extended.
          Things that might help:
          – Online exercises, supervised by someone at home.
          – Use the Silver Sneakers option to get Mom in the water for exercise. Many Y’s have classes, but she could also do exercises in the pool. Have her ask her PT person, before she is discharged from the service, just what exercises she could do to keep the improvement going.
          If she is on Medicare, she may be entitled to up to 14 days of meals once discharged from in-patient care – it’s a big help for the caregivers.
          Good luck.

  4. if i knew how to write a good cover letter, i wouldnt be driving uber. Sorry i’m not help either.

  5. Eldercare is TOUGH. IMHO it’s similar to raising a toddler; only backwards. Monitoring home-care workers is also not a happiness. Sometimes a stint in a rehab center is a better choice but neither are particularly fun.
    If your mom has long term care insurance it may be time to tap those funds to get her past this blip in the road.
    It’s important for caregivers to be kind to themselves. This is likely not a sprint and can be a marathon so pace yourself.
    From personal experience none of it is fun, though there can be funny moments.
    Regarding villains: the very best for me are the sneaky ones. That is ones revealed bit by bit.
    I just listened to an audiobook about JP Morgan of Occidental Petroleum fame. His epic financial success owed much to a relentless commitment of driving competitors into dust and bankruptcy by any means necessary.This despite an austere Presbyterian ‘Christian’ lifestyle.
    JP’s background included a colorful evangelical father who duped many. The old man kept a second family several towns and then several states away from JP, mother and siblings which he abandoned and left in poverty.
    Reality is often stranger than fiction.
    Fascinating characters all.
    Best of luck w/your mom and the challenges ahead.

  6. Sorry didn’t get back to ask after the first post but: What is the “accepted” standard for pricing ebooks. My understanding is that at $.99 most of the cost goes to amazon (or the other stores); but there may be a pricing sequence that optimizes certain price levels.

    I can also see that length needs a certain amount of reward. Modesitt is priced at about $15 for a 600 page book ($25 for paper). Outside of such major authors (their rapacious publishers) where would the equation for pricing put this size book. Hmm I assume one can add a number for author success, but ?

    I know you all are not publishing philosophy, fact, how to, etc. But I’m not sure that there is a true difference for the market there either.

    1. Quick answer because my brain is mush. There is no correct answer. If you go to some of the FB groups that focus on indie authors, especially those who distribute their books wide, you will find a number of folks who say you should offer your first in series as a perma-free. Then they price the subsequent books at a stairstep moving upward from $0.99 to usually no more than $5.99.

      Here’s the thing. If you charge less than $2.99, you are going to get a much lower percentage of the sales price. Then you have the second factor you have to consider. Many, if not most, readers don’t want to pay $9.99 for an ebook by anyone, especially not for one by an indie.

      And the $4.99 to $5.99 for a full-length novel (80k words or more) pays an indie more, iirc, than a $14.99 ebook sold through a publisher. The storefront and author are the only ones taking a bite out of the sales while if you go trad, you have the storefront, the publisher, the agent and then (at the very bottom of the ladder) the writer.

      1. Echoing this– I’ll pay over $5 for a proven author.

        (there’s some wiggle room for what flavor it’s in, look for books *like* yours)

        I will NOT pay over $7 unless I *really love you*, and about $4 is if it’s totally unknown but looks really interesting.

    2. Hi Tolonaro,

      I’m not sure there is a standard, other than ‘what the market will bear’. I priced my first book, ‘Texas at the Coronation’ at $2.99 for the e-book (no dead tree edition yet) since it was fairly short and it’s a first book from a new author. I didn’t want to push things too far.

      I’ve just finished the sequel, and since it’s substantially longer, at 80,000 words instead of around 50,000, and I’ve got a bit of a track record now, I’ll probably price it at $3.99. BTW, I hope to get it published by the end of September.

      I’ve seen many more established indie authors run $4.99 for their e-books. This seems reasonable to me, and I have no problem buying at that price. I look forward to the Mad Genius’ thoughts on this, as well.

    3. As a reader, I’d say between $2.99 and $5.99 for a normal length novel. Underpricing the market isn’t necessarily good, either – I doubt it will increase sales volume, and can cause potential readers to wonder about the quality.
      For getting readers into a series, a lower price (not necessarily free), time limited sales, or on KU (first book(s) or entire series) should help.

    4. I do $.99 for the first in the series, and for short stories of less than 10K words. Then $2.99-3.99 for novellas up to 60K words. Full-length novels are $4.99, generally. I almost priced the most recent one higher, because if the cost of edits and the length, but held back for various reasons. It won’t earn out any time soon, but it will earn out (make back what it cost).

  7. I tend to have a two-tiered bad guy system in my books. There’s “petty human selfish villain” who’s usually out for power or status, sometimes glory or revenge, and then the eldritch abomination villain, whose motives are vaguely discernible (power, occasionally sadism) at about the level you can discern them for Sauron in LOTR or Morgoth in the original published version of the Silmarillion, but whom no sane person would mistake for human. How they’re connected is me figuring out how petty human villain benefits or whether they’re even aware of what’s using them. And of course, how does the eldritch abomination benefit from using them.

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