Reading post-mortem: introducing the antagonist

"Alathea" - by Maddie Bolek

In this particular trilogy, antagonists are people who are good at having very lofty visions, but not at questioning the need for their methods. Not once they get started. They are powered by absolute belief in the necessity of what they do. Whatever needs to be destroyed along the way, whoever needs to die, all justified by the ends pursued. If they stopped to question whether what they’re doing is actually a valid means to the end, that hesitation might ruin everything. That lapse in faith might curse them.

Protagonists have an uphill battle, to put it one way. They arrive super aware of the problematic aspects of their privilege, but they see that they could potentially wield this privilege to change things for the better. Everything that an antagonist might dismiss as a “bump in the road” is a big deal and deserves scrutiny and thought. Protagonists must have the courage to doubt, think twice, reconsider, but ultimately act in the best way they can given the limitations of their resources and knowledge at that instant. They have that valiant struggle against people of absolute faith, who don’t face the same intellectual/moral hindrance to their actions and are therefore unpredictably dangerous. But there are negative consequences to never questioning, and it can also be bad practice for those inconvenient times where physical reality/actual happenings don’t unfold the way you had absolute faith they would, and where thinking on the fly can mean everything.

That creates a three-book plot arc where the primary antagonist starts off with the largest armies, the newest invented weapons and the expertise to use them, and absolute faith that she represents both the demolition of the old world and the construction of a better one; she is so sure that her actions are going to save the world from conditions of injustice, by any means necessary, that she doesn’t do a lot to question the means, and dismisses the advice of her closest associate because it represents doubt and faithlessness to her. And the protagonists still have hope in the face of that, because they second guess, make contingency plans, understand at all times and with deep gravity the human cost of whatever they intend to do versus the human cost of not acting; they have the courage to doubt, and at the best of times, the strength to make sure doubting doesn’t stop them but forces them to behave considerately/thoughtfully.

The reading I did at Albert Campbell Library was an illustration of this. Alathea is going to take full credit for something it took an expert captain, crew, navigator, and thundery contingent to accomplish, and utterly no practical skill from Alathea, but does she speak or behave as if she values their lives particularly much? I feel in the end it’s a bit heavy (and also gory) for a public reading, where given the type of audience, levity is key. I feel a bit like the audience needed the balance of levity and seriousness you get from the better Marvel movies, while I gave them a super serious super grim Batman vs Superman type experience.

The full text of the reading is behind the cut. It is from Chapter Two of The Crown Princess’ Voyage, which is available for preview on Wattpad.

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Previous and Future Readings

Five author portraits are shown on the top row, and their book covers are shown in a row beneath, with their names.

At the end of this post I’m going to enclose the previous reading I did, exactly as it appeared in the printed document.

So, as per my previous post, I’m going to be reading at another local authors night (link goes to Facebook event).

You can actually read any excerpt I could pull out, because my focus these days is on my next book, The Crown Princess’ Voyage (Book 2, The Gift-Knight Trilogy). Provided you can navigate Wattpad’s interface and/or tablet app, and don’t mind reading from a screen (I say that because some people really prefer paper), both The Gift-Knight’s Quest and The Crown Princess’ Voyage are available online and free to read. There are some other drafts up there which have not yet had a single editing pass, so… reader beware. With the two full novels, even though they’ve had numerous editing passes, that’s exactly why you now get further license to complain when I missed the obvious typo.

I don’t know how long they’ll both be up there. I was hoping to get a few interested readers who wouldn’t have otherwise risked buying the book before they tried it. I’m also a small-time author and in order for someone to want to “steal” a book that’s not meant to be read free, I would have to be popular enough for that to be a concern. If J.M. Frey can put books on Wattpad for trial without being too worried about it, and this is kinda something I felt encouraged by her to do, I have nothing to worry about.

And now, the previously read excerpt (which is not what I’ll be reading next Wednesday). Jan is a supporting character from Book 1 who starts to develop his own plot arc where he’s in charge. When it starts, he’s still under Chandra’s orders and waiting for her to be done whatever diplomatic visit she’s committed to, but he has to take immediate action. Then her decision making basically drives them apart. It was always easy when being loyal to the Kenderley family necessarily meant protecting their kingdom of Kensrik and its people, but what happens when these two things are forcibly separated? Chandra has a very difficult choice to make and I think she made the practical one, but Jan doesn’t agree.

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Next Appearance Will Be At Albert Campbell Library

Newmarket vendor setup

A friend recently asked me how I get into so many local author/library events. There’s not really a genius plan to it or any secret, it’s a “daisy chain” of networking, luck, interest and availability. Between my one day at Ad Astra and the Vaughan Public Libraries local author book fair, I met the same contact who kept inviting me to The Bookshelf in Newmarket, so that brought me there. A Toronto group I’m in, and the VPL local author book fair, both have another friend who just invited me to the next appearance I will make. It will probably come full circle when I make sure I vend at Ad Astra next time.

On July 20 at Albert Campbell Library, there will be a Toronto Public Libraries local author fair from 6:15PM until 8PM. I will have a vending table set up with a monitor to screen a select book trailer, and copies of The Gift-Knight’s Quest for sale with autographs. I will also read a selection of the sequel, The Crown Princess’ Voyage, and aim to stay within the five minute mark–time limits get tricky with my stutter, but I tend to aim for less than five minutes’ worth of material under “alone” conditions so there’s a time buffer to work with. I’m long winded and wordy and that poses a selection challenge, but I’ll find something that works. Then there will be a question period. I won’t be the only presenter, of course, but I’ll post more information as I get it (if necessary).

Back to the point of live events, it’s also a matter of where you are, and where you’re willing to go. Years of trekking into Toronto on public transit for social events has somehow grown on me, which is good because I don’t know how many events happen close to where I live; the VPL event happened within my city, but my city’s also like a bunch of towns and villages that were redrawn into one map boundary some time 25+ years ago to make a municipality. No place I’ve lived is 100% close to everything I want to do, and the closer places are also more expensive to live in. If you don’t live close to anything and commutes don’t work for you, there’s lots you can accomplish on the internet instead.

Here are also a few facts that I’m repeatedly told. If you have one book and are starting out, you’re going to these to hand out cards; by all means have books on hand in case you get lucky, but you’re dispensing information and building your author profile. It’s going to be all about the conversations you have, the fun and the connections. It will have nothing to do with immediate profit. The only time I break even on book sales versus venue fee is when I don’t have to pay for my table at all, and that’s rather normal. And it’s good that I have gotten any interest at all with a single book, when I’m often told to expect nothing until I have at least two books out. I’m working on that.