Writing unforgettable villains

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By Toby Neal

Batman villains: The Penguin, The Riddler, The Joker 1967

Public domain image. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Crime writing is fun—and the most fun is dreaming up evil characters who do unspeakable things! Without good villains, the mystery genre would be dead. These deviants drive the plots!

As a former therapist in the psychology field, I have a bit of an advantage in creating bad guys and gals who exemplify the worst of the human race—and showing them in a way that’s believable because its based in an understanding of the human psyche. The best villains are shades of gray, spookily relatable because they are us … in the right situation and circumstance.

Bestselling Hawaii mystery Torch GingerA good villain teaches us something about the world, other humans, and most thought-provoking of all, about ourselves. What would we do, given the situation, circumstances and background of the villain in the story? Some part of us wonders if we’d be much different.

My best villains

I’ve written a serial killer with social anxiety and schizophrenia (Torch Ginger). I’ve written a sadistic gangster villain (Wired In). I’ve written a heroic bandit who stole from the rich to give to the homeless (Broken Ferns) and I’ve written a sociopathic identity thief who falls in love with a ruthless gangster (Black Jasmine.) I’ve written 20 mystery/thrillers, and every one of them needed a villain to drive the story—so I have a special soft spot for them. So many villains, so little time!

My favorite villains have been women. Women, statistically, commit less than a fourth of the violent crime (or any crime, really) than men. But when a woman goes bad? Truly bad? She can wreak a swath of havoc a mile wide, leaving nothing but rubble, ash and broken hearts in her wake.

bestselling Paradise Crime boxed setMy current favorite villainess is Pim Wat Smithson, mother of Sophie Ang, heroine of the Paradise Crime Series. Pim Wat is supposedly institutionalized as a catatonic depressive in Thailand. But really, all the years she was supposedly having a lie-down with a cold cloth on her forehead, Pim Wat was traveling the world, killing people as an assassin.

Pim Wat is a consummate actress, deadly as a viper, and completely narcissistic. She loves what she does and “scripts” her kills, with costumes, dialogue, and little theatrical flourishes. That she is the mother of Sophie, a character we’ve come to know as heroic, dedicated, and self sacrificing, is a wonderful juxtaposition that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings.

Toby Neal

After a few “stretches of exile” to pursue education, Toby returned to the Hawai’ian Islands where she was born. have been home for the last fifteen years. Her career as a mental health therapist has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her books.

Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life in Hawaii through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography, and hiking.

 Get to know her on:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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Crime fiction teaser: Avengers of Blood

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Read on to find out how you could win a copy of this week’s crime fiction teaser series

By Gae-Lynn Woods

Avengers of Blood A Cass Elliot Crime fiction novelHE’D BEEN A LIGHT sleeper since his days in the military, drifting in that hazy world between the conscious and unconscious and able to snap from one to the other in an instant. Emmet Hedder rolled over and felt a searing heat in his upper right arm. The disturbing sensation of being watched had interrupted his dreams moments earlier, and the fire in his arm brought him to full wakefulness. He reacted instantly, shoving his left hand under the pillow, grabbing his Glock, and rolling out of the covers to the floor in a smooth movement. Ducking his head under the bed, he looked for feet and legs, saw none, and fired high through the window, the bullet piercing a top pane.

A scrambling sounded from outside. Emmet tightened his stomach muscles to raise his upper body and peek over the window sill. No one was visible in the moon-drenched backyard. Adrenaline screamed through his body and his left hand trembled as he reached up and ripped two extra magazines from the bottom of the bedside table drawer, then found his wallet on the table itself. His tennis shoes were near the bed and he slipped his bare feet into them, then pulled the small duffel from beneath the bed with his uninjured arm.

Again, he looked over the window sill and saw no movement. He breathed deeply and then rolled onto all fours, hissing against the pain, and crawled to the bedroom door, standing only when he was away from the windows.

The hall seemed to bend out and away when Emmet gained his feet, but he rested against the cool wall to let his vision clear before hurrying toward the kitchen. He crouched as he passed the open bathroom door so as not to be seen through the small window. Emmet stopped at the end of the hallway and poked his head into the kitchen for a quick look through the windows above the sink. Nothing.

Squatting, he duck-walked across the linoleum floor, wincing as his tennis shoes squeaked against the clean surface. A cool sweat bathed his face and he took a steadying breath, then grabbed his keys from their hook, yanked open the outside door, and dove for his truck.

____________

THE SHOOTER DROPPED WHEN the shot exploded from the bedroom and crab-walked along the house to a shadowy cluster of trees, a startled smile on his face. As quietly as possible, he ejected the spent casing into his homemade brass catcher and slipped a new round home. This was an unexpected turn of events, but a strangely exhilarating one.

He heard a door bang open and the pickup’s engine roar to life. Running through the carport, he lifted the rifle to his shoulder and aimed, following the little truck’s tail lights as it careened out of the drive, bounced over the curb, and sped down the road. Slowly, he lowered his weapon and watched to see if lights went on in any of the nearby houses. All was still and dark.

He trod quietly to his truck, placed the rifle in its special compartment, and drove away. The smile was still on his lips, for the hunt was on.

“You want to play, Emmet? Let’s play. Run, little rabbit,” he whispered, “run.”

About Avengers of Blood (crime fiction, mystery, thriller and suspense)

A deadly game of cat and mouse is playing out in Forney County…

Detective Cass Elliot is still on suspension after killing a fellow officer and Sheriff Hoffner refuses to sign her release papers. But when four people are murdered in one night, one with the exceptional brutality of a lynching, the Medical Examiner side-steps Hoffner to hire Cass and loan her to Forney County’s overstretched police department.

As Cass and her partner investigate, they realize that three of the murders were committed by the same person but find no connection between the victims. Their frustration intensifies when another victim survives and disappears instead of coming to the police.

Sheriff Hoffner is frantic about anonymous letters claiming one of his star officers is dirty, and Cass suspects a link to the current crimes. The pieces fall together when she uncovers the true identity of the man who was lynched, revealing connections between the victims, the killer, and an unpunished crime committed nearly fifty years ago.

Crime fiction, mystery, thriller and suspense

Find it on Amazon.

Win a free e-copy

The author will give away an e-copy to one of the people who correctly answers this question:

What’s the title of the first Cass Elliot crime novel?

Leave your answer in the Comments below.

About the author

Crime fiction author Gae-Lynn WoodsGae-Lynn Woods is a crime fiction-writing Texan who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Visit Gae-Lynn’s

BestSelling Reads page   |   Amazon author page   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Google+   |   Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website   |    Blog

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Focus Friday: Avengers of Blood

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By Gae-Lynn Woods

Avengers of Blood-final fileIT WAS A BEAUTIFUL night for a killing. One of those gorgeous Southern evenings that occur only occasionally as summer draws near, cool and clear, nearly devoid of humidity. Overhead, the stars sparkled in a vast expanse of velvety sky, their shimmering brightness dimmed only by the whisper-thin gauze of smoke that hung in the nearly motionless air.

Despite the smell of terror and charred flesh, the clearing retained the cheery, slightly crazed atmosphere of a traveling carnival. The crowd had at first been pensive, watchful, but once the killing was done a sense of relief swept through the watchers. Women gossiped and tittered, drinking soda pop from bottles dotted with condensation. Children played chase through the forest of legs and took turns reenacting the murders they’d witnessed only moments earlier. Men smoked pipes and cigarettes, talking in low voices and tapping dried mud from their tired work boots.

The sheeted men nearest the fires took off their hoods and their damp faces gleamed in the flames. People pulled back to give the photographer room and a bright burst stung the night. At last the crowd drifted away, women calling children and fussing at their husbands to hurry home. A few engines cranked in the still air, but most left on foot.

The men in sheets lingered until the last of the crowd was gone and then congratulated themselves on how quickly justice could be served. A rustling startled them and one man took long strides to the side of the clearing and parted two azalea bushes bearing papery violet blooms. A filthy figure gazed up at him, face tear-streaked and snotty, a broken pencil and tattered paper clutched in one grimy hand.

It took a moment, but at last he recognized the child. He leaned over and snatched the paper, calling to his companions. They towered over the tiny body, muttering to one another and turning the drawing to the firelight to see crude representations of the horror they had wrought. At last one of them lifted a foot clad in a pointy-toed cowboy boot and nudged the child toward the road.

“Get on home, now,” he said. “And don’t you ever talk about what you seen. You understand? Don’t draw no more pictures, neither.” The child looked up at him with dark eyes that pierced his soul. He blustered on. “What happened here tonight can just as easily happen to you. Easier, even. ’Cause there ain’t nobody to look out for you now.”

He watched as the child scurried away. Once out of reach, it turned and looked back at them with a burning gaze, searching their faces. He lifted his foot again and the child fled, swallowed quickly by the night. The laughter of the others was at first hesitant, as if they too had felt the intensity of the child’s hate. But the sound swelled and gained confidence and at last he joined in, hoping to obscure the vague uneasiness settling in his gut.

About Avengers of Blood

A deadly game of cat and mouse is playing out in Forney County…

Detective Cass Elliot is still on suspension after killing a fellow officer and Sheriff Hoffner refuses to sign her release papers. But when four people are murdered in one night, one with the exceptional brutality of a lynching, the Medical Examiner side-steps Hoffner to hire Cass and loan her to Forney County’s overstretched police department.

As Cass and her partner investigate, they realize that three of the murders were committed by the same person but find no connection between the victims. Their frustration intensifies when another victim survives and disappears instead of coming to the police.

Sheriff Hoffner is frantic about anonymous letters claiming one of his star officers is dirty, and Cass suspects a link to the current crimes. The pieces fall together when she uncovers the true identity of the man who was lynched, revealing connections between the victims, the killer, and an unpunished crime committed nearly fifty years ago.

About Gae-Lynn Woods

Gae-Lynn WoodsGae-Lynn Woods is a Texan who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Visit her:

And follow her on Twitter @gaelynnwoods

 

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