Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Winding Road... leads to Bodie?

Today is the last day of the Kickstarter campaign for "The Good, the Bad, and the Undead," and it has been a long and rewarding road.

Coming up next, I find myself looking forward to the last stages of writing the novel and developing the rpg. Unfortunately, creative time has been in short supply lately, with my main project having become managing the Kickstarter campaign myself. Now I'm looking back at my story notes, looking at where I left off, and thinking about moving to the climactic finale of the book.

After all the excitement lately, we've been considering a vacation, and this may be the perfect opportunity to go soak in a little Old West atmosphere.

I've discovered an old ghost town here in California called Bodie. It's not Texas, but it's about the best I can do at the moment. Actually, it turns out that one of the inspirational images we've used for art for "The Good, the Bad, and the Undead," are actually pics that came from Bodie!

Recognize this?

That's a church in Bodie, CA. And I imagine the local saloon in Affliction, Texas looking a lot like this:

Once things calm down a bit, we'll be planning a trip out there, both to get away and to soak up some atmosphere before writing the final scenes. 

If you'd like to take a closer look at Bodie yourself, check out this video by a California local on visiting Bodie with his son. There's some really cool background info about the town there, including how killings occurred almost daily, and how the minister, Reverend Warrington, concluded, "Bodie is a sea of sin, because of greed, passion, and the overall lust of the civilians in the city."

Check out this video by youtube user moneybags73:

Also--there's still 10 hours left to contribute to the Kickstarter! The last of the Collector's Edition books have been claimed, but there's still room to name a character or to have an illustration of yourself as a cowboy vampire included in the book! Don't miss out!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hate and Fear in Fiction - What makes a compelling villain?

I've been bouncing some crazy ideas around about fiction and how we use it to process our darker emotions. First, a question for you...

What is the nature of evil?

I feel like most people would probably answer "hatred," right? (If you disagree, or have something else to offer, please let me know in the comments!)

The question of how to create a really good villain is something of an enigma. There's no one right way to create a compelling villain, but there are a few commonalities...

1) They should be someone you love to hate. Perhaps most important, they need to offend, insult, piss off, and/or enrage the reader sufficiently that you want to destroy them by the end, you yearn with a visceral hatred to just rip them to pieces, see them and everything they love destroyed. The best villains evoke this kind of reaction--but you can't try too hard for it or the villain just ends up seeming silly and melodramatic. Game of Thrones is full of these characters: Joffrey and Cersei, for my money.

2) You should be able to empathize with the villain. Right or wrong, even as they hurt you and anger you enough to make you hate them, at the same time you should /understand/ them at least a little bit. It may make you sad, but you should be able to see how they came to be where they are and--chillingly--recognize that it could have been you in the right (wrong?) circumstances. The villain of Watchman, Adrian Veidt/Ozymandius, is an excellent example of this kind of character. Even as you loathe him in the end... you can't help but wonder if you agree...

3) They should be fascinating in some sense. The Magnificent Bastard, for example, makes an excellent villain: bold, charismatic, independent, audacious and genius. Something mysterious and exciting about them. They should be as evil as they are charismatic. They make you want to follow them, even as you know you shouldn't. And when you eventually come to hate them, the feeling is all the stronger because of how much you could have loved them. The Phantom of the Opera is a good example of this kind of character.

But here's the magnificent irony of it all. While hatred is at the heart of true evil, the most successful villain is the one who elicits hatred in the audience.

By exploring evil, we tap into the evil parts of ourselves. By observing what we hate on-screen, we ourselves become creatures possessed by hate, by the desire to rend and destroy.

But it's okay, right? Because we hate something evil? But is hate still evil even if it points at something evil? Many of the most heinous crimes in the history of the world have been committed with hatred--genocide, murder, torture. But it's always a reaction to the villainy we see in the other; we are okay with hating and hurting because what we hate and hurt is evil... but in so doing, we ourselves become filled with hate and the desire to hurt.

It's a lot to wrap your head around... I'm just glad to get this stuff out in fiction rather than in real life. I'd much rather cathartically destroy a villain on-screen, rather than actually destroy another human being in real life under the hate-filled guise of some noble cause.

If you define evil as 'driven by hatred,' then it's beautifully ironic that the best villain is the one who turns the audience themselves into villains...

(If you like this, back the Kickstarter for my book: "The Good, the Bad, and the Undead" today, and see some of my explorations of the nature of good and evil in practice--with zombies!)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Artist Profile: Callie MacDonell

As we enter the third full day of the "The Good, the Bad and the Undead" Kickstarter at 85% funded, with less than $600 left to go, I think it's safe to say that a Western Action Horror featuring cowboys and vampires is an idea that has legs. People like it! Hell--that's why I'm writing it! I saw what the Fabled Lands guys were doing, and I liked it so much I wanted to join in.

Join the party on Kickstarter!

But this idea wouldn't be what it is without the magnificent art that brings it to life. You all know Jamie Thomson, and I've talked in a few places about who I am, but we haven't yet made space to talk about our wonderful artist, Callie MacDonell.

First, I want to say that I had a lot of trouble finding the right artist for this project. We talked to half a dozen artists, and many of them we even commissioned a piece or two from before it didn't work out for one reason or another. Just as I was ready to tear my hair out from frustration, Callie came along with the right skills and talent and agreed to join the team.

A stylized self-portrait by Callie MacDonell

Callie MacDonell is a professional artist and designer. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, in California, where she works full time doing art, design, and video production for the mobile game company Kabam. She got her undergraduate degree in Media Arts and Animation from the Art Institutes International Minnesota, and went on to get her graduate degree in concept art from The Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

She has a remarkable array of eclectic experience, having done animation, writing, illustrations, motion graphics, design, video production, and concept art. She was a character and environment concept artist for the short film Curpidgeon, where she worked along side Pixar Art Director, Anthony Cristov. She did design work at Marvel Comics, using Marvel artwork to design merchandise such as T-shirts, jackets, children's wear and the like. And she worked as a writer for a TV show pilot for FonCo Creative Company... but if she told you the name, she'd have to kill you ;)

Callie is a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy movies, tv shows and literature. She loves art in all forms, but is especially excited by opportunities to work on sci fi and fantasy projects within the comic and animation industries. She is currently working on her own short animation for children, "Cat Walrus," about an exchange student who is a cat-walrus mix, and she's struggling because it's picture day at school and she's clumsy on land and has nothing to wear... it's adorable!

In her own words, she couldn’t be more excited to be working on The Good, The Bad, and The Undead! We're excited to have her :) The book wouldn't be the same without her vision bringing it to life.

Callie MacDonell painting her own self-portrait

If you like her work, check out more of it!

Deviant Art: