Failure: what drives the beta hero

Lately, I’ve found myself writing a lot about characters who are failures.

At this stage of my life, I’m now older than a whole lot of people. I have the leisure to look around at peoples’ lives, particularly the “failure” kinds. You know, the people who get on social media and weep that their book only sold four copies, so it’s a failure and they’re taking it down. And then they leave the group when people tell them to try harder.

Failure is such a nebulous thing. In school, you get a big fat F and have to repeat a class or rewrite a paper. That sucks. It’s like being slapped in the face. But all it means is that you didn’t meet a certain standard set by the teacher or the school. Kids don’t have this perspective. Failure is the END OF EVERYTHING OMG.

But once you become an adult, what is failure, really? When you go bankrupt? You’re still alive–you can start over. When your project doesn’t sell? When people say nasty things about you? What is the failure point? Those are all setbacks, not the END. The END is when you’re dead.

Success can feel like failure when it eats you alive and rockets you to an all new tax bracket. Talk to lottery winners about this.

So, in my pondering failures and what it means to fail, I sat down and wrote a superhero trilogy with a beta hero.

Beta males are fascinating to me, especially in a team dynamic. It’s the sidekick, the guy who is content to let somebody else lead. He usually has his own interests and ideas, but he keeps them to himself. He’s easy-going, and plays off the driven personality of the alpha male.

But what happens when the beta hero is forced to become the leader?

You guessed it: failure. Lots and lots of failure as he has to learn to make decisions. Sometimes he makes bad decisions because he’s not good at this leadership thing. This creates friction with his friends, and especially the previous alpha male, who can see the outcome of all these mistakes miles away and is gnashing his teeth at his friend’s perceived stupidity.

This is fun to play with in a superhero setting, because everyone on the team has some kind of power. They could all be leaders, and they all have ever-present stakes as they fight the resident supervillain. In a setting like this, forcing the beta male into an alpha role is even more devastating. He could get all his friends killed with one bad choice … and he carries this knowledge as a terrible burden.

So, I present to you Guardian’s Awakening, first book in the After Atlantis trilogy.

guardians-awakening-cover-f

Tane is the beta in his team of superheroes–the muscle who lets his team do the thinking. He and his friends defend their small town on the Atlantean Isles from the experimental robots of a neighboring mad scientist, earning enough bounty to live on.

When Tane discovers a mysterious gem that threatens to take over his mind, he accidentally drags his friends into becoming the crew of the mysterious Mercury Island. In addition, the island accepts Tane as its Guardian, making him the leader of the group. This sparks a cascade of conflicts between himself and the previous leader, Sebastian, who doubts and questions Tane at every turn. To make matters worse, they discover that a girl lies in stasis deep within the island–and she is the most powerful super of all.

Now Tane is in deeper and deeper trouble as the girl’s powers awaken, attracting the attention of supervillains and monsters alike. But she is the key to making Mercury Island fly again.

Tane has only begun to grow into his Guardian role, but his enemies–and allies–may kill him first.

Available here on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited


This book is a little heavier on the “Fantasy” end of superhero fantasy, but don’t worry. The next book will be heavier on the “superhero” end.

Advertisements

Book review: The Lake House by Kate Morton

Goodness, I’ve been an emotional mess lately. I blame the hormones. Anyway, I’ve been between books and kind of tired of everything in my to-read pile. Then my mom said, “Hey, get The Lake House by Kate Morton, it’s really good.” So, deciding that general fiction might be a nice change of pace, I grabbed it at the library.

Here’s what it’s about:

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories.

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. He is never found, and the family is torn apart, the house abandoned.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as a novelist. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old Edevane estate—now crumbling and covered with vines. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies from a masterful storyteller, The Lake House is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.


 

I checked the categories for this book on Amazon, and was really confused, because it’s classified as historical fiction under “Australia and Oceana” … even though this is set in England. Sure, there’s a lot of World War 1 and 2 stuff, but mostly, this book is a mystery. Actually, it’s three mysteries, all intertwined.

The first page, an unnamed character is burying something in a large box out in the woods. So you know that something untoward is going on. You have to go almost the whole book to find out who buried it and why.

It’s also a shame that Eleanor isn’t mentioned in the summary. She’s Alice’s mother, and is arguably the most important character in the book, as well as the most fascinating. The whole central mystery hinges on her actions.

Meanwhile, Sadie is satisfyingly tenacious, driven to solve this cold case of the missing toddler by her own botched case involving an abandoned little girl. There’s a whole theme of missing and abandoned children throughout the book, which is awful, yet satisfying, as each plot thread is resolved.

There’s also another theme of poetic justice. Eleanor firmly believes that everything happens for a reason, and good is rewarded and evil is punished, even when it certainly doesn’t look like it. And throughout the whole book, you see people having justice dealt to them in surprising and satisfying ways. And by the end, you see that grace is actually better than justice. The sheer grace of the ending had me crying through the last chapter. And it’s not sad–it’s a lovely, happy ending. But oh, in my hormonal state, it really got to me. Kind of like crying at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life.

The book is almost 500 pages, but it didn’t seem that long. Kind of like binge-watching a TV series in one shot, you just keep turning pages to find out what new twist will transpire. There were three big ones that looked like they had solved it … then I checked and went, “Nope, this isn’t it, because there’s too much book left.”

So, if you’d like a good read that’s part historical fiction, part mystery, part good ol’ general fiction, this is a great summer read. Heck, it’s a great winter read … or any time read.