23 October 2009

the Amazon Kindle "piracy" problem...

Several days ago, Shayna Englin was quoted in the press, describing how she and several friends exploit the Kindle to share their e-books. Sadly, she has closed comments on her rebuttal. I can appreciate her need to turn her blog back to its intended purpose, her business, but some things need to be said on this subject...publicly, so people understand why authors and publishers react as we do...and why we feel Amazon is faulting on established practices.

Let me put it to you another way. Shayna and her friends have found a loophole in Amazon’s system that the authors were not aware existed. Are some angry at her and her friends? Sure. But more, we’re angry at Amazon.

Why? Because it was introduced to US (the authors and publishers) that it was to allow one person to share the book on devices they owned…to allow husband and wife, mother and daughter, two sisters or two best friends (hey, I’ll go that far) perhaps to share books. Not six unrelated friends to do it.

There is an established way to lend e-books, and Amazon breached it. Look at B&N, and you’ll see the RIGHT way. You get the publishers to opt in. You have a limited number of shares…okay, Amazon did that right, I believe, though their comment of "usually" six does not inspire confidence. You have a limited number of TIME on shares; I’ve heard 2-3 weeks batted around for most systems, with one person using it at a time and/or only the total of 12-18 weeks (6X2 or 6X3) of sharing allowed on a book EVER, allowing for two times on a single person, and you lose a share that way to someone else. Amazon has defaulted on this by leaving publishers and authors COMPLETELY out of the loop and misrepresenting to us how this would be handled and used.

Did it floor some authors to learn it was being used this way? Of course. Because it’s common sense to us that you don’t do this without publisher approval. Yet again, Amazon has jumped into an established game and screwed up the works, confusing the issues. But Amazon seems to excel at that.

Simply put, Amazon needs to do what B&N is doing…and do it fast. They’ve lost about a thousand points in my book in the last few days and swung my opinion to being fully in B&N's corner, at least until Amazon handles this to the satisfaction of the authors and publishers.

Is sharing a print book different than “sharing” an e-book? Yes. It is. Sorry to burst the tender bubbles of some people in here, but it is. e-Books are software…a book but not in a solid form that will eventually fall apart. Paper books don’t last decades, as they did when they were made a century ago. Planned obsolescence is the name of the game these days. There is no wear and tear on e-books. They don’t wear out…ever, because there’s such a thing as backward compatibility. But, back to the meat of the subject.

Valid e-book lending, as a result, has limitations set on it. DRM to make them only good for a certain length of time and number of lends, for instance. Someone MIGHT say that the DRM in question makes it allowable, if it was legalized into X time and Y number of lends, to lend them without publisher approval. I’d be WITH them, if such a law existed, but it doesn’t.

Right now, we’re dealing with copyright law, which says NO unauthorized copies of the book made and distribution. And we’re dealing with DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), which covers all electronic media, including e-books. Kindle’s method of “sharing” doesn’t break copyright, per se, IF only one of the six can use it at a time, like passing a paper book hand to hand. If more can, it breaks it, right there, because they don’t have the author’s and publisher’s permission to make those copies (more than one person holding and reading the book at a time) without paying royalties for them. Simple, elegant, but as I said, Amazon rarely thinks these things through, from what I’ve seen.

The other types of piracy noted in replies on her blog are not legal, because they are creating and distributing (illegally) multiple copies of the book. It’s not LESS illegal to make copies of an e-book and hand them out than it is to slit the cover of a paper book, make OCR scans of it to make an e-book, and then pirate that as an e-book, which has happened to many print-only books, like Harry Potter. Or to use a Xerox to make paper copies of an entire book and hand it out, which most people DO know is illegal…and impractical. Hurray for innovations that make copyright infringement easier. Tongue in cheek…firmly.

I have nothing against someone who is (for instance) vision impaired OCR scanning a paper book to have ReadPlease or Adobe read the book to her. That’s use of the book you purchased (used or new) for your own purposes. A-okay, in my book, though Author’s Guild would have a heart attack to hear me say that, I’m sure. There are legitimate uses to the hardware in question, but pirating books isn’t one of them.

Neither do I have an issue with one person sharing an e-book with A friend (singular). Never did. More than two starts to fray at my nerves, especially if I find they are both/all keeping copies of the book. A lot of people really don’t know this is wrong, and I try to educate them about it. It’s the big pirate sites that are the bane of my existence. Not these piddling little sister/sister shares.

So, is piracy worse than UBS (used book stores)? YES! Both legally and from the standpoint of sales numbers for the authors. Legally, I’ve covered. Realistically…the entire paper books eventually wear out thing…I’ve covered, not to mention that even UBS can only sell one copy at a time of a book, whereas pirates can give away thousands of copies at a time of the single purchased book. I’ve found 800 entries for my books at a single pirate site, and I find dozens of sites every year. Taking them down can be, if you let it, a full time job.

Maybe it’s not a big deal to a bestseller in NY, who will pre-sell 100,000 or more of the newest book in print form alone and sell that much or more in the first few weeks out for sale, but to the indie/es and the midlist in NY…yes, it’s a plague that will discourage authors, will waste a heck of a lot of our writing time, will adversely affect our royalty checks, and will (in many cases) keep a NY author from getting offered another contract, because the sales aren’t up to snuff on the one being pirated.

A plague? That’s not an exaggeration. There is no such thing as a book that cannot be pirated. There is no DRM that cannot be broken. There is no way to make a paper book that cannot be scanned. All we can do is be enough of a pain in the backside to pirate sites that we slow them down.

17 October 2009

WISHES and EVE up for an award!

Strangely, it's NOT one of the two I was talking about the other day. Two other awards are about to announce finalists, and I'm hopping around in excitement about it. Why is it that I can enter a contest and be completely unaffected about it, until the week I know finalists or winners will be announced? Then I'm a nervous wreck.

Anyway, back to this contest. THREE WISHES and THE TEMPTATION OF EVE (both from my Urban Grimms collection) are up for Whipped Cream's book of the week. First time I've been up for it, and a two-fer, at that. Both took 5 cherries in their reviews. So far, WISHES is doing better in the voting than EVE is, but I like WISHES better, as well, so that doesn't surprise me.

If you've read either of these stories and would like to vote, the link is here. If you'd like more information about them...


"The Temptation of Eve is a thrill ride of a book. From the first page I was sucked in and couldn't put it down. I loved every word! I really enjoyed the twists and turns this book took as Ms Lyons wove her story. I recommend this great read, and look forward to seeing more from this talented author."
Reviewed by Snowdrop for Whipped Cream Reviews- 5 Cherries!


"Another wonderful read from Ms Lyons! I absolutely loved the godfathers. Their wit and humor are fantastic; add in their caring attitude toward the main characters and these three take the cake. The end of this book is wonderfully satisfying and, just like the fairy tales of old, it has a lesson."
Reviewed by Snowdrop for Whipped Cream Reviews 5 cherries!

Also from the collection...

"This action-packed short was the perfect “waiting room” escape. As an Italian, I found myself laughing out loud at Mama. She was so convincing, I could almost smell the lasagna."

CATCH ME, IF YOU CAN- Reviewed by Jaded for Bitten by Books 3.5 Tombstones!

Once upon a time, the Brothers Grimm wrote a collection or ten of morality and cautionary tales. They weren't the sanitized versions so popular today. In fact, if you were telling a child the Grimm's tales, it was to scare him straight. It's time to take the magic and mystery...and the horrific elements back. Urban Grimms are not the bedtime stories your mother told you. Full of erotic romance, dark fantasy...and good old sarcasm, there's a little something for every grown-up fairy tale lover.
"Catch Me, If You Can"
A retelling of the classic Grimm's tale "The Hare and The Hedgehog." When Angelo Maretti's twin sister is killed by 'family rivals,' the retribution backfires in the form of a mobster who wants to kill Angelo as well. His foe is the last of the culprits left alive, and he will die, God willing...but not by way of a gun. To avoid a war, all of the guilty have to die without a sign of interference by the Marettis.
HEA-yes, VIOLENCE-high, LANGUAGE-moderate, SEX-erotic
Cover art courtesy of Samuel Pray (artist) and Under The Moon!
"Three Wishes"
A retelling of the classic Grimm's tale "Three Little Men In The Wood." Ellie D'Arcy just wants to graduate college and move out of her home to escape her stepmother and stepsister. Her inheritance can wait until she reaches 25, as long as she's free. But, there's another inheritance she is due at 21, one she never knew was coming. What happens when a 21st Century woman is given three wishes by fairy godfathers? Simply put, havoc ensues, because the fae have a sense of humor the likes of which you've never seen before. They also have tempers.
HEA-yes, VIOLENCE-moderate-high, LANGUAGE-moderate, SEX-erotic
Cover art courtesy of Samuel Pray (artist) and Under The Moon!
"The Temptation of Eve"
A retelling of the classic Grimm's tale "Snake Leaves." It's Eve's wedding day to Raul, but something has gone seriously awry. Following a veiled warning from her brother-in-law Roman, the prodigal son who has returned for the wedding, and a drugged wedding night she can barely recall, Eve's life is set on edge. Which brother is lying? Which is protecting her, and which is dangerous to her? Or...are they both?
HEA-yes, VIOLENCE-high, LANGUAGE-explicit, SEX-erotic
Cover art courtesy of Samuel Pray (artist) and Under The Moon!

Excerpt from THREE WISHES

Ellie pushed through the door into the restroom, her mind in turmoil. She had to get the necklace off and find a way to hide it, but she couldn't seem to figure out the lock without a mirror.

At the sink, she turned the chain until the lock faced the reflective metal surface. Twisting the chain to rotate it only heightened her confusion. There were no seams, no markings save a small symbol that was probably a maker's mark, no loops or thumb catches. It appeared to be a solid block of metal, fusing the ends of the sturdy chain together.

But, that was impossible. Angus had put it on her. It had to open.

You can never take it off.

Had Angus said that? Ellie was certain he had. He hadn't said 'you shouldn't' or 'you must not' or even 'you will not.'

You can never take it off.

"That's crazy." Ellie leaned closer to the mirror, pulling and prodding at the block. It felt as solid as it looked. Whatever the trick to it, it wasn't coming off.

Cursing under her breath, she trudged down the hall. She glanced at her watch, wincing that she'd missed the 3:10 train to work. There would be no time to eat before she started work, unless she settled for a burger at the campus café and took the 3:40.

It wasn't exactly high cuisine, but it would do...and it was cheap. A burger, chips and a soda would run her just shy of eight dollars.

Ellie fished her purse out of her backpack, frowning at the weight. It was thick, stuffed so full it bulged in her hand.

"They wouldn't," she breathed. How would they?

"Problem, honey?" the cashier asked.

Her cheeks burning, Ellie mumbled out a 'no' and opened the purse, making sure she shielded the contents from view. She thumbed past the hundreds and fifties, praying that wasn't all she had, nearly sighing in relief at the first twenty. At least one of those was really hers, so she snagged it and paid, stuffing the change into her jeans' pocket.

Ellie dropped the purse back in her backpack, accepted her food and walked away. She knew she'd waste half of it now that her stomach was tied in knots.

It was back to the restroom. Ellie sat in the stall, tearing her backpack apart, looking for a place to hide the wad of money.

"You had to give me two things to hide?" she complained in a whisper.

Hiding the money was essential, even moreso than keeping the necklace under wraps. The money had to be returned to Marcus intact. The necklace was secondary. Worst case scenario, she'd keep it on her neck for the next twenty-four hours.

It's not like I can remove it, anyway. If I can't remove it, it's unlikely anyone else can, either.

That still left her with the problem of hiding... Ellie counted it, her mouth going dry.

A thousand dollars? That was like waving a red flag before Tina and Maria. Even if it didn't mysteriously disappear, just the sight of the money would spur Tina into raising her rent, on the off chance that it was Ellie's money.

But, where could she hide it? Ellie handled one thing after another, rejecting stuffing individual bills in between the pages of her notebook, trying to roll them small enough to stuff her tampon box with them, and so on. Her gaze skated over her laptop then returned.

Of course! Tina and Maria were computer illiterate, save e-mail and forums, and her laptop was only set-up for the college's wireless network. It was the one thing they'd never consider touching.

Ellie pulled the money from her purse, folding a few bills at a time and making a thin layer of them on the keyboard. She shut it, searching for telltale edges and smiling at the results.

The laptop stashed in her backpack, Ellie scooped up her purse...and stopped in dismay. It was full and heavy.

"No," she pleaded. "No, no, no. This has to be a nightmare."

She pulled another stack of bills out of the purse, her heart sinking as it filled again.

"Pocket change," she grumbled. "A spell for pocket change. A five would have sufficed. Twenty wouldn't have been unreasonable." Now what?

At a loss, Ellie laid the second set of bills in the laptop and forced it shut. There would be no more hiding them there. And, if I take more out of the purse, it's going to fill. She didn't question that. She returned the laptop to her backpack with numb fingers.

They're fairies. God help me, they're fairies, and they cast spells. What do I do now? She had a necklace that she couldn't take off and an endless pocketful of cash.

Ellie pushed away the thought that she also had a soulmate out there somewhere, burning a path to her door.

16 October 2009


That's right...one of my rare contemp stories is coming from LooseId in December. And you get first look at the cover art by the talented April Martinez!


All I Want For Christmas Is You- Two years after losing her fiancé Zach in a car accident, Robin is moving on. She's set her priorities, and one of them is following through with a life plan she and Zach made together...having a baby. It would be best if said child shared some of Zach's genes.

Enter David, Zach's older brother. He's Robin's best friend, her confidant, the one person who won't think she's crazy to do this...she hopes. Since there's no chance the ladies' man will fall for her, she hopes sex with him will stop the dreams where David takes Zach's place.

It's the invitation he's been waiting for, three years of watching Robin with his little brother, then watching her grieve Zach. If only she wanted David for himself and not a convenient sperm donor to conceive his brother's child. Then again, in such close quarters, maybe he'll be able to convince her to something more permanent...if his parents don't catch wind of the whole thing first.

HEA-yes, VIOLENCE-mild, LANGUAGE-graphic, SEX-erotic...BDSM overtones, anal sex

“I want to have a baby.”

“C-come again,” David managed to stutter out. Overall, it was a better response than she’d anticipated to the announcement.

Robin took a calming breath and prepared to explain. Despite how many times she’d rehearsed the speech, it deserted her in the heat of the moment, just as she’d feared it would. Just as it often had with Zach.

“Well...Zach and I had planned to have a baby right away.”

He nodded, setting his beer on the table between them. “He mentioned it.”

That would make things easier. I hope. “I still want to.”

“Have...a baby.”

Robin hesitated and then nodded. He thinks I’m insane. Then again, she thought she was insane some days. How many weeks had she argued this? How many times had she reversed course? More than Robin cared to count.

David gulped down another few mouthfuls of his beer before he answered, seemingly steeling himself for something unpleasant. “Robin, I know you love Zach.”

And she loved David for phrasing it that way. Anyone else would have said ‘loved Zach,’ marginalizing her feelings, dismissing them. Putting the nails in the coffin of her love for him. She winced at the pun.

“But, baby... Much as we both love Zach, he is gone.”

Anyone else would have ended up with a faceful of red wine at that blunt statement, but David had always been honest with her when no one else would.

“I know,” she replied with all the dignity she could muster.

“The plans you made together...” David sighed. “They were meant to be carried out together. I’m not saying you’re incapable of doing this without him,” he hastened to add.

“What are you saying, David?”

He darkened a notch. “Be sure, before you do something this...big. Be certain you’re not doing this just to hold onto a piece of what you and Zach planned.”

She stiffened, offended that he’d think her capable of it. “I’m not.”

“Just be sure,” he insisted. “Holding onto the past just to --”

“I’m not!”

A couple at a nearby table slid a glance at them at her outburst. Robin pretended not to notice it, and they went back to their conversation.

David took her hand, stroking his thumb over the back and his fingers in the bowl of her palm. With that little provocation, her body responded.

It seemed to be happening more and more often. Touches he intended to soothe her aroused her senses. Shared looks made her heart pound in excitement. Whispered words had her wet and aching.

His voice dragged her back to the present.

“You’ve thought this through, then?”

“For months.” That was no exaggeration.

David raised her hand and pressed a chaste kiss to her knuckles. “Then I’ll help you.”

Her breathing hitched. That simply? I ask the seemingly insane, and he agrees nearly without question. David was a rare man. Zach would have demanded weeks of negotiation on the subject. She pushed that thought away before she stared arguing this choice again. “Thank you.”

“So what’s it going to be? A sperm bank?”

Her face burned in embarrassment. Now comes the moment when he says I’m insane. Robin didn’t doubt that his offer to help was about to be rescinded.

“Robin?” There was an edge of steel in that question, and he stopped stroking her hand.

“I was hoping...” She couldn’t form the words. Damn! Why did I spend all that time practicing the logic, if I can’t speak coherently enough to say it?

One dark brow arched at her hesitation. “Hoped?” he prompted her.

“To have...ah...a donation from someone who shared chromosomes with Zach.” She knew her eyes were pleading with him. Not so much for his agreement; it was unlikely she’d get that much. Robin would be lucky if he didn’t walk away and wash his hands of her.

The beer came up in David’s free hand, and he drained it. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and set the empty glass back on the table. After a tense moment of silence, his eyes opened, and he forged on.

“You want me to... What? Leave a sample with your doctor or something?”

It sounded horrid, when phrased that way. Beside that, it wasn’t what she wanted. She tried for humor, her heart aching. “If that’s the only way you will.” At least, she’d get the baby that way, which was better than not, she supposed.

His eyes widened, and dark patches of color bloomed in his face. “If... If...?”

She stared to speak, uncertain what would spill out. It had been too much to ask. It was time to let him off the hook and get therapy for her fascination with him.

He put up an index finger, an unmistakable order for a moment of silence.

Robin snapped her mouth shut, cursing herself for not dropping the whole idea. She’d argued it was crazy at least a hundred times. Why had she bothered to pursue it?

David dragged out his wallet and tossed a twenty on the table. A whirlwind of a moment later, he was ushering Robin out of Mik’s and into the crisp winter air outside. She zipped her jacket, averting her eyes, anticipating the lecture to come.

He turned to her, and she looked up against her better judgment. His face was all harsh lines. Oh, yes. The lecture was coming.

“If that’s the only way I will?”

There was something manic couched in his tone, but he wasn’t shouting at her or suggesting a shrink. To her surprise, he seemed to want answers, so she organized her thoughts, seeking out the reasons she’d so carefully prepared.

“I’ve investigated every --”

“Robin,” he warned.

She stared at him, confused. What had he been asking, if not the reasons why he should consider a more intimate donation to the cause?

“Are you saying you’d prefer another option?”

08 October 2009

Unfashionable writing

Just amused by the state of the world today, as you'll soon see...

What set me off?

A comment on a list that stated editors and agents expect you to have a complete and working knowledge of grammar before you submit to them.

Why is that amusing to me?

Grammar is changeable. I mean...some things are pretty much wrong...dead wrong...always. But I find it somewhere between amusing and annoying that you learn the "rules" of grammar, and every time the powers that be that write the Chicago Manual of Style make a new edition, they change it, just to change it, seemingly.

As if that's not bad enough, then they make things optional, so the individual house styles can choose one or the other. For instance, the use of commas, in certain situations, is completely optional, depending on whether not using them would cause confusion for the reader. It's no wonder some people find grammar daunting.

Same thing with spelling. I'm sorry. I learned to spell with traditional spellings, so when the new M-W comes out and says that the "new way" to spell a word (dumbed down for the idiots who don't want to pick up a dictionary and spell things correctly) is now the preferred way to spell it, I find it galling that some publishers will choose to make the preferred spelling the default for their house, across the board, which dumbs down my books, IMO.

I make a habit of telling the middle and high school kids I teach about writing that you should absolutely learn grammar, punctuation, and spelling...but don't expect them to be stagnant. Don't expect them to be "correct," when submitting to a publisher who has gone through three versions of the CMS and M-W since their textbooks and teachers have been updated. I have nothing against a living, breathing language. I do have something against being told that the old ways are wrong, just because someone wants to sell a new edition of a book. They aren't wrong. They are just being made unfashionable, thanks to CMS and M-W.

Just remember the old saying.

"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months." Oscar Wilde


"The fashion wears out more clothing than the man." Shakespeare

06 October 2009

Yet again the govt blows it

So, the entire internet is buzzing with the whole thing about the FTC making rules about product endorsement and reviewing. Simply put, some poor clueless bureaucrat is trying to apply this rule unilaterally, from big names paid to endorse pharmaceuticals to readers who just want to share a good read with their friends on MySpace and blogs.

Never mind that our biggest problem is piracy. They can't be bothered to deal with that. They want to cut the lines of our beloved reviewers or make it more difficult for them to function.

A reader-reviewer asked how they can do this, since her blog should be covered by freedom of speech. This was my reply...

Freedom of speech is only applicable when used responsibly. Now, I don't think book reviews are irresponsible. Let me start by saying that. Inciting violence is irresponsible. Libel is. Harassment is. Fraud is. And guess what? Those things are still able to be prosecuted when perpetrated on a blog. But, otherwise...yes. You're supposed to have freedom of speech.

If you say something mean about your boss, he can fire you. Doing that on a blog or in a tweet is not only irresponsible, it's stupid. Stupidity should be painful. But, beyond that...and back to the subject...

What does this law do? It institutionalizes something that has been a friendly sort of sharing of interests. Someone reads a book, talks about their opinion of the book, other book lovers read the review and may or may not respond (starting a discussion about joint interests) or choose to purchase said book. Many reviewers (not all) are just normal folks...readers we all know and love. A few of them are also in the industry: authors, editors, publishers, review site owners, professional book reviewers... But by and large, we review because we love books and want to share that interest with others. Not for pay. No one's getting rich here. But this law applies the sensibilities of industry professionals to those who do this for enjoyment...and they apply it wrong, to boot!

Wrong how? Giving away print ARCs is frowned upon. It's not technically illegal, despite the disclaimers on it. But since many publishers have a no resell policy for review copies, it's unethical to break that agreement. Giving away or reselling e-book copies given for review is breaking copyright law and possibly DMCA (unless it's a Creative Common or other free read style the author has given you permission to give away). The writers of this article say that giving away the book after reading it absolves you from this rule. Clueless about the industry much? Yes, they are.

But, the bottom line is, the FTC passed this atrocity. What does that mean? It means that, when I tell you that I absolutely adore the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld (YA fantasy), I have to also tell you that I received a free PDF copy of the book in a promotion Simon and Schuster had to promote the series by giving away the first book, but that I further bought the entire series in print for myself and my family. Therefore, I have no financial ties to S&S and/or Scott Westerfeld, the series' author, and was not 'paid' to endorse the series.

Now, my behind has been properly covered. Doesn't that feel better? Picture my eyes rolling in annoyance.

Writing the villain-hero or the likable bad guy!

Turning good guys to bad and vice versa or writing characters that are a hearty mix of both has always been a favorite pastime of mine. People were convinced Ty was the hero of TYGERS until about 4 scenes in, when I turned the tables and showed them a 4 y/o boy's best friend was a psychopath instead of his hero, which completely freaked one reviewer for a few chapters. OTOH, Mik, Jorg/Veriel, and Jurel all started out as villains, but when you got to see from their POVs...well, how about that? Not villains anymore...or at least villainous heroes, in Jorg's case. At the beginning of PROPHECY, people were convinced Joe was a stalker. Perception is a fun game to play.

So, how do you do it? How do you make a villainous character engaging and appealing to the readers?

First of all, the character has to be three-dimensional. A two-dimensional villain will automatically be disliked by readers. That's the point of a villain. To be three-dimensional, a villain has to have a backstory and reasons for what he/she does. Those reasons have to have a logic, even if that logic is skewed.

You have to make the reader empathize with the character's position...not necessarily sympathize with or agree with or even approve of the choices morally, but empathize with and understand why and how this happened. One way to do that is with sympathy. People who are seriously wronged and seek revenge is a good way to invoke the knee-jerk support or sympathy of readers, but it's the cheap seats of doing the job.

What else works?

Alien or non-human sensibilities. Write a were or animal-type paranormal creature, and you have instincts in the mix. You can also have instincts for creatures like vampires. Write someone from a culture not our own, and you have cultural mores, ethics, and laws that call for things we wouldn't engage in and might find horrific. Write a creature driven by hunger, and everything will be flavored (pardon the pun) by that driving need.

World situation. Men will commit atrocities in a war that they never would otherwise. I'm not saying war corrupts absolutely. It doesn't, but... A friend of mine (the wonderful author Teel James Glenn) once gave me an old quote that applies here: "The rules of engagement only apply until the first attack." After that, it's fight or die, and any dirty trick that lets you live is fair game, in the heat of the moment. I can't recall the movie, but there is a great scene of Russian soldiers being sent out (WWII, I believe). There were only enough firearms to supply one in ten of the men, so you'd stay close to another soldier and try to stay alive long enough for him to be shot, so you could grab his rifle. Whatever you did to stay alive was what you did. Was that ENEMY AT THE GATES? Maybe?

Likewise, people who are starving will choose the lesser of two evils, steal or die. Ethics are often situational, and the spirit of the law is not black and white. In a severe enough situation, people will rethink their ethics and are much more likely to slide toward neutral from lawful.

Politics. Closely linked to world situation. If you see something happening or coming that you feel is ethically bankrupt, what would you do to stop it? From the Declaration of Independence... "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." It is often seen as a duty to right the wrongs, and if the despot is abusing his power, violence may call for violence. THAT is your Robin Hood character, in a nutshell. No, he wasn't a murderer, but he didn't shy from killing a few soldiers, when he had to. That bow and arrow or long sword or staff weren't for show, after all.

Protection of the innocent. This is another lesser of two evils moment. If you had a choice to stand by silently and allow innocent children to be hurt...whether they were your children or not...you may be spurred to do something extreme in their protection.

Madness. Pure and simple. This takes the idea of revenge a step beyond. What if the abuse was so severe, the character went mad from it? What if, in his grief and pain, he does things that are horrible? It could happen, and I've found readers very receptive to the mounting madness in a character.

The mind of an innocent. What if the person doing wrong has a very childlike understanding of right and wrong? What if, in order to protect another, he does things that most people would consider the very WRONG choices, because he doesn't understand what the right choices are? What if the wrong is all he's seen? Or he's so sheltered, he's never faced the situation to know the right answer? Think SLING BLADE. Think DOMINICK AND EUGENE.

The horrific justice-bringer. There is a reason Hannibal Lecter is so popular with readers (including myself). "I only eat the rude." Look at who he preys on: pedophiles, serial killers, officious types, thieves, corrupt or abusive officials in positions of power... In short, all of the people many feel, deep down inside, the world is better off without. The people who are nice don't need to fear him.

However you do it, it's a rare and challenging writing feat to write the villain-hero or the likable bad guy.

01 October 2009


It's my birthday month, which means fun for me all month long. I'll be doing chats, interviews, running contests... It's my one all-out month every year, and I don't forget my readers, in the process

Stella Cameron's yearly Scarlet Boa Contest is up and running. This year's theme is "Introducing a Paranormal World." Readers get a taste of upcoming books...or ones already out, and they vote for the winners. Most years, it's just for fun. This year, the winner gets a read from a NY editor. Not a bad little addition to the pot.

Now, my PERSONAL rule is that I never troll for votes. I'm sticking to that, no matter what the prize is. But I'm going to make going to the site and voting for someone fun for you...well, beside reading the excerpts. My entry is between #60 and #70 somewhere. Take a guess which is mine, just for fun. Right or wrong, you'll be entered to win a backlist PDF of choice from me. Voting for first round ends on the 15th, and so does the contest. Just send your guess to brennalyons(at)comcast(dot)net with BOA CONTEST in the subject line. Good luck, and have fun reading the entries! Some good stuff in there every year.