Musing 11/7/18 – Likability in Your Characters.

As of a few days ago, I stopped watching Last Man Standing.

Which is a shame because it’s hilarious.  I can enjoy a good sitcom but I tend to look at anything I watch from a writer’s POV.  It drives Big Brother crazy but he understands why.

One of the daughters, Eve has become absolutely unlikable.  And no this is nothing against the actress who plays her.  She’s very good with the material given, so really, I’m blaming the writers.  You would think they already know that even bad guys have to have some measure of likability.

There have been many articles and videos about this subject.  I’ll likely suggest this to some of my favorite Booktubers.  So I’m just going to touch briefly on the subject.

But wait, you say, how can the bad guy be likable? Well Wreck it Ralph and Felonious Gru aside, any writer will tell you that even bad guys have to have one redeeming quality or they’ll be unbelievable and of course, thoroughly unlikable.

The way I do it and the way I’ve heard other authors do it, is to give the villain a plausible reason for his actions.  Perhaps (s)he’s seeking revenge for a wrong done to him/her but (s)he goes about this with ruthless efficiency, determined to stay on top no matter what and getting rid of anyone in his/her way.  In the antag’s mind this is justified by the previous wrong.

On the other hand, a good guy may be doing wrong as well and making mistakes but perhaps they grow and change as a person, learning from those mistakes. Nothing they do is out of malice normally, because that would make them an a**hole.  And not the good kind of a**hole.

But when the good guy becomes a scheming, snobbish, immature and downright cruel character, I stop reading.  In the most recent episode I viewed, involved attempts to keep the Arts Program in the local high school from being cancelled.  I don’t believe I need to say what the Arts mean to me. For those of you who have never seen it, Eve is the sports-loving tomboy, a cliché but a character archetype that I like.  Check out the episode, Season 4,  Episode 5, The School Merger.

I won’t get to deep into it but Eve basically dissed a friend and the Arts program because she couldn’t draw. The scene starts with her asking a friend who is in the band to help her on the art project, then says, “Well, hopefully they’ll kill the arts program.” The friend then tells her she’s counting on a music scholarship to get into college and without the band her dreams will be crushed.  So what does Eve do? Shrugs it off like it’s not important and when the friend asks, “Any chance they’ll get rid of football.”  Eve laughs at her and insults her intelligence for even thinking the Arts were more important than sports.  At the end of the episode, you see Eve seeming — I suppose remorseful but there’s no way to tell and nothing further is said about it.  The episode ends with Eve’s friend playing America the Beautiful on her oboe but can’t continue because she’s so heartbroken.

But that’s just one of the MANY annoying and uncalled for things the character has been doing lately.  Watch a few episodes if you want to get a better picture.

Perhaps the writers will allow the character to grow and change but I’ve seen so many episodes with her being a total bi— bad person — that I’m not willing to wait for them.
And if this were a book, not only would I stop reading it but I’d return it if I could and give it away if I couldn’t.

So remember it’s easy to make even the worst character a bit likable if you just take a moment to consider the bigger picture.

Peace ~



*And lets not forget she wants to get into West Point.  As ex-Army I can honestly say, it ain’t gonna happen!

Musing 11/5/18 ~ Follow the Rules!

…Or, “If I can do it the hard way, why can’t you?”

I know it’s been awhile since I posted here.  But it’s been one of those, life gets in the way, kind of years.  If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know I was downsized from my job of ten years in 2017.  That November, I wrote Gunslinger Witch during NaNoWriMo which was completed in January 2018.  Right now, I’m shopping it to literary agents and I have three full requests and one partial I’m waiting to hear about.  I had another retail job for about four months, which, as they say, turned out not to be a good fit, so I left there.  Now, I have a new job starting next month so November is free.  So I’m enjoying as many lazy days as I can.

I just wanted to look in real quick and talk about some instances that can only be described as acts of desperation — or, acts of rank stupidity and creepiness.

A few weeks ago, I commented on Twitter about several posts from agents who had people looking up their home address or the home addresses of close relatives and sending them queries of all things.  Jessica Faust of Bookends Literary Agency made a very succinct video about why you shouldn’t do this, among other things.  You can view it here:


I’ve said DON’T DO THIS!  All you’re going to do is piss the agent off and make the rest of us writers look bad.  In the past, I’ve seen agents close to queries or remove their presence online because of this.

Now there’s a new show in town.  People pretending to be a published author and querying various agents in their name.  I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would do this as it’s easily verifiable.  In the most recent incident I saw, the agent merely contacted the author and asked her. Did the person actually think their idea would work?  And not result in them being called out?

Look peeps, there are so many writers out here who follow the rules of submission, work on the perfect query/synopsis and write the best book they can.  Then they have the patience to wait for a response according to the agent guidelines.  All those little tricks to supposedly get you in the door are bull**** and will NOT result in getting you an offer.  And I’ve seen some weird suggestions and happenings in the time I’ve been in this business, from people claiming to have offers of representation when they don’t to others approaching agents when they’re in the ladies to pitch their work!  And of course there’s the old favorite, visiting the agent’s office in person and dropping off a full.

And with authors, no we can’t help you write a book, or introduce you to an agent or listen to your idea.  Not that we’re trying to be pissy but it’s been said on so many forums why these are not good ideas.  Here’s a few for you to view from some very intelligent published authors.



There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for not knowing about the business or how to behave properly.  You have access to limitless information about publishers, agents, editors and all of the little nuances of our chosen career.  Back in my day — did I actually just write that?– there was no Google or Bing. No YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, in fact there was no search engines or social media at all…because there was NO INTERNET.  Yes, I’m old. Hell, most people couldn’t afford a PC, back then which didn’t become available to most of us until 1984.  Yes, they existed earlier but were considered a luxury item.  I didn’t get my first PC until about 2000.  I recall a co-worker buying one from Gateway for $2300.00 and that didn’t include the monitor.

You know how I wrote my first book?  In long-hand then on a typewriter.  Google it.  You can do that now.  There was no email to send it off so you had to spend money to buy paper and ribbons which weren’t cheap even back then.  Then you had to pay to send it in.  Most literary agents did charge fees.  And don’t forget sending a letter with an SASE.  And there were no printers of course so you had to pay to make copies which were also an exorbitant amount back then.  I once tried to ask a teacher if I could make a copy of my book in the office and she proceeded to humiliate me in front of the class.  Then some skinny boy had to put in his two cents.  Thanks Jim, I really needed to hear that.

But I digress.

Now you can easily research the business.  That’s the main thing, RESEARCH!  research the agents, their guidelines which tell you exactly what you need to do.  Research publisher’s and their guidelines and if they don’t accept unsolicited work, then get an agent.  And not by dropping by their offices, calling or slipping a note under the bathroom stall.  That’s seven different types of creepy. Don’t try to steal author’s names and/or claim you know them if you don’t.  That’s insulting and infuriating.  You wouldn’t like someone doing those things to you anymore than they do.

Also for your own safety, make certain that you’re dealing with a legitimate agent or editor.  Don’t let desperation guide your actions.  I’ve done that and it turned out poorly.  There are dozens of ways to find out if an agent or publisher is legit, using the same resources as mentioned above.  There’s the fabulous Victoria Strauss and Writer Beware as a prime example.

It’s important to do things right.  Not perfectly, but right.  You will make innocent mistakes, that’s a given.  And it’s not just writers, agents and editors have as well.  But learning from the mistakes — and yes, I know this is cliché — makes it all right.

Stop the idiocy.

Peace ~


*Major props to Alexa DonneJenna Moreci, Jessica Faust and Victoria Strauss.



Individual Artist Grant

I mentioned on Facebook that I received a grant that would enable to attend the The 2018 Philadelphia Writer’s Workshop.  Gunslinger Witch is what I presented to them.  I love all of my works but this one is special because it is unlike anything else I’ve written in the past.  I’m hoping to be able to send her out into the world in the near future.

I’ve never been to any workshops or conferences before in my entire life so this means a great deal to me.  For me personally it tells me that I am good at what I do.

I wouldn’t be able to attend if it wasn’t for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Delaware Division of the Arts grants program.  I just wanted to remind everyone involved in the Arts that we need organizations like these to further our career choice and to be certain that the Arts remain an integral part of the lives of everyone.

I will always support the Arts organizations in their endeavors in any way I can.  We need them!  What’s a world without the Arts?

So thank you, on behalf of myself and my fellow writers.  You are truly fabulous.


WA Simpson aka CJ Black