Thursday, October 22, 2015


The Dark Side of Humanity
Using Real Life to Craft an Antagonist
By: Tamara Jones

Not all monsters are, well, monsters.  So far we haven't been overrun by zombies, dodged werewolves, or had to stare down Cthulhu before he drives us insane.
            We do, however, live among monsters of a different kind, human bogeymen who look like us, people who might be our friends, neighbors, even family members.  These are the monsters I tend to write about, the ones far too few see, even after they've begun their work.  Monsters who kill, torture, rape, and traumatize other people.
            The FBI estimates that there are between thirty and fifty active serial killers in the US right now.  That means one is likely claiming your state as their hunting ground.  Even more troubling, serial killers tally about 150 victims a year, at least that the authorities know about.  Those 150 serial killings a year aren't much, only about one tenth of one percent of the other 140,000 non-serial murders a year.
            Add in about 175,000 reported rapes, 800,000 kidnappings, 80,000 child molestations, and almost five million reported domestic violence incidents a year, we humans have proven ourselves to be adept at viciously harming each other and far too many of us are eager to do it.  These human monsters and their crimes can make great antagonists, especially when it's often the 'nice boy next door' who is the one doing the vile deed.
            That's a lot of carnage and wrecked lives, leaving plenty of story fodder ripe for the taking, but we writers have to think about the why behind the what.  How much disregard for life, how much lack of conscience, must someone carry around to strangle another human being and toss them in a ditch as if they were a crumpled sandwich wrapper?
            It's not just the murders, rapists, and thugs who do great evil.  Humans have bought, sold, and traded other humans like commodities for all of history.  Even now, young women and teenage girls are yanked from their lives and thrown into sex slavery.  They're product to be bought, sold, and sued for the pleasure of others.  Corporations have been known to view their employees as marks on the expenses section of a spreadsheet, not people or assets to the company but merely disposable items, like post-it notes or boxes or staples.  Tribes are wiped out, the enemy is labeled as such but remains otherwise faceless before being bombed into oblivion, and even our politics have obliterated compromise and compassion for anyone on an opposing side.  Hate is plentiful, as it always has been, and too many people find release from their own misery by pressing misery upon others.  Even those they supposedly love.
            With so many human monsters within our midst, so much evil in our neighborhoods, communities, and places of employment, why not look to them for a story's antagonist?  Sometimes it just takes a long gaze into the next cubicle, the checkout lane, the mirror, or into your own dark heart.
            And that's what makes them the scariest monsters of all.

About the author:
Tamara started her academic career as a science geek, earned a degree in art and, when she's not making quilts or herding cats, writes tense thrillers as Tamara Jones and the award-winning Dubric Byerly Mysteries series (Bantam Spectra) as Tamara Siler Jones.  Despite the violent nature of her work, Tam's easygoing and friendly.  Not sick or twisted at all.  Honest.

About the books:

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication date: 6.2.2015
Pages: 264

The dead are coming.

Ten named people walk from a cemetery into artist Sean Casey's backyard: ten Spore People who used to be dead.  One, Mindy, stays with Sean while trying to reclaim her life, but her ex would rather she return to her grave.  Sean struggles to protect Mindy and other Spores while battling his recurring - and worsening - nightmares.  Meanwhile, the media feeds a panicked frenzy that leads both the hopeful and hateful to Sean's front door.
            As the Spores fungus spreads, so does the fear.  When mutilated children match Sean's nightmares, he realizes his own worst terror may be closer than he thinks.

Dubric Byerly 1:
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Supernatural
Publisher: Spectra Books
Publication date: 10.26.2004
Pages: 488

Where does the fever of illusion stop...and the cold truth begin?

This unique debut thriller combines forensics, fantasy, and edge-of-your-seat suspense like never before.  In a world where sorcery is illegal, someone is murdering young women in ways that defy all reason - and all detection.  Only one man knows how to tack such an untraceable killer, a man called to deliver justice by an onslaught of...
            For Dubric Byerly, head of security at Castle Faldorrah, saving lives has become a matter of saving his sanity.  A silent killer is afoot, savagely mutilating servant girls and leaving behind no clues and no witnesses - except for gruesome ghosts of the victims.  Ghosts that only Dubric can see.
            Caught in the eye of the grisly storm is Nella, a linen maid working to free herself from a dark past - if she can survive an invisible killer's rampage.  But with the death toll rising and Nella under the protective wing of a man who may be a prime suspect, Dubric must resort to unconventional methods.  With the future of Faldorrah and countless lives at stake, including his own, he can't afford to be wrong.  And if he's right, the entire kingdom could be thrust into war.

Dubic Byerly 2:
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Supernatural
Publisher: Spectra Books
Publication date: 10.25.2005
Pages: 528

In this relentlessly gripping thriller, Compton Crook Award winner Tamara Siler Jones weaves together her unique blend of fantasy, forensics, and suspense to create a world terrorized by a killer out of our darkest nightmares.  Now one man must follow a trail of savaged victims to save an innocent life hanging by the slimmest of hopes...
            One by one, young men in the kingdom's outer reaches are vanishing into the dark.  So far, two bodies have washed up on the local riverbank.  But Dubric Byerly, head of security at Castle Faldorrah, soon realizes there are countless more victims...for it's his curse to be forever haunted by the ghosts of those whose deaths demand justice.
            The latest to vanish is Braoin, a seventeen-year-old painter whose mother came to Dubric's aid when he most needed it.  All Dubric knows is that the boy is still alive.  But time is running out, and it isn't only Braoin's life hanging in the balance.  If Dubric can't untangle the twisted web of clues and lies and find his way to the killer, one of his own pages will be the next to die...

Dubric Byerly 3:
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Paranormal
Publisher: Spectra Books
Publication date: 10.31.2006
Pages: 464

In the mage wars, Dubric Byerly risked his life - and sacrificed the woman he loved - to catch magic's darkest killers.  Those battles are long over - and the monsters Dubric hunts these days are nothing more than men.  Until now.  A recent string of grisly crimes has Dubric and his pages scouring the countryside for clues that hint at the worst: that history's most murderous mage has come to Faldorrah.
            As Dubric's hunt leads from secrets locked behind sanatorium walls to a hidden cache of souls preserved in fluid, other lives are shaken: a young woman given a power she doesn't want, a young man inheriting a legacy he can't understand, and a father fighting for his memory of a daughter who may already be lost.  In the hardscrabble village of Quarry Run, the dark ghosts of the past have come calling - and the battle for the future begins...

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