Shopping For Characters

Casting Director

In my last post, I told you that I visualize my characters before I flesh them out on the page. So I pretend I’m the casting director for the movie about my book.

Hunting Season

When I’m  in this developmental phase, I do a lot of people watching. I’ll sit at the mall, I’ll eavesdrop on conversations, I’ll eyeball parents–grandparents– at the soccer fields. Any seasoned hunter will tell you that opportunity only knocks once and you have to be alert at all times. After all, you never know when your next victim, umm, I mean character, will emerge from the shadows. Take that Sunday at church…

I’d been hunting for Newcomb: storyteller, man in his fifties, wise, confident, white hair, medium build. I had just about conceded defeat until an elderly gentleman several rows in front of me caught my attention. The lighting made his white hair glow. I perked up and watched his every move, noted how the light caught every strand of hair, imagined him in the tunic he’d be wearing in my story… I don’t remember the sermon but I’ll never forget discovering Newcomb.

Let ‘Em Have It!

Annoy WriterI love this mug’s saying, not only because it’s funny but because it’s true! Channeling one’s anger (or any emotional experience) into a character is a GREAT way to add depth.  I purposefully made DeMorley (a conniving minstrel lacking musical talent) my Nashville music biz punching bag. I poured my negative experiences-the filth, the lies, the BS-into DeMorley. Not only was this refreshing and fun to do, but it saved me from paying a psychiatrist or being arrested for assault.

I hope this helps and good luck writing!



Character Crafting


In my third book, When Kings Clash, I encountered a snag when re-writing the prologue from omniscient author to third person limited POV.

How do I introduce a new primary character (the Gor King) without revealing his identity/background?

The obvious answer was to tell his story through another person, but this too was a challenge. Books I & II are full of characters, so I had to make sure that a new voice was not only warranted but captivating.

In my noodling, I decided to take a people group I’d used previously, the Wurmlins, and develop them beyond what I’d established: nomadic tribe; hunt in groups of three; excellent trackers; ruthless thieves.

Now what?

Next, I needed a new character. Since my audience is YA, I opted for a 13-year old boy I named, Mälque.

How’d I come up with that name? I made sure I didn’t have too many other characters with the letter “M,” wanted it to be one syllable (I think short names sound strong and are easier for readers to grasp) and chose the umlaut because, well, it looked cool. Boring answer but there you have it.

But who is Mälque?

When I create a character, I have to visualize them first. I don’t use a character fact sheet (although I see the merit of doing this) but instead, mull over their psyche for quite some time. For me, this IS the nuts and bolts, the gumption, that drives them through the story. In other words, I’m more interested in my character’s home life than in his favorite color. In the case of Mälque, who is our example today, the fact that his mother was very superstitious had a huge impact on him. Although he denied her influence and even tried to navigate life by denouncing her beliefs, like gravity, he was unable to pull away from her power. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Borrowing From Another

Around this time, I watched a spooky-good Indie film called Winter’s Bone, based upon the chilling book by Danielle Woodrell. In his novel, Woodrell captured the Ozark language and family dysfunction and made his characters jump off the page.

What if Mälque and the Wurmlins were similar?

An image of Mälque popped into my mind…long, greasy, disheveled hair (perhaps in a mullet!) soot covered face, hardened personality (to avoid getting hurt again), a survivor instinct whose weakness, that only the reader sees, is that he’s very vulnerable.

Rules Are Meant To Be Broken

In regards to dialect, the rule of thumb is to infer it. For example, if your character is a Cajun, then you inform your readers he talks with this accent and let their imaginations do the rest.

I tossed this rule out the window. Why? The other rule of thumb per fantasy, and I would argue trumps (not Donald Trump!) the dialect rule is that you NEVER break the fantasy spell. So for me to let the readers know that Mälque talks with an Ozark accent would jettison them from the fantasy world. Besides, I was having way too much fun writing this way!

Next, I decided to give Mälque a key phrase, one he utters to reflect his cynical heart as well as to bolster his courage:”Ain’t nothin’ but dyin’ around here.” And like a chef using a strong spice, I used it sparingly so as to not overpower the story.

Proof Is In the Pudding

As I wrote and crafted Mälque, I became excited. My gut told me I was on to something; Mälque was taking on a life of his own. If you’ve ever experienced that as a writer, you know exactly what I mean. It’s WONDERFUL!

But would my readers like him?

The first test was my publisher, a former Green Beret, who is not one to shy away from brutal honesty. He too loved Mälque and felt he was a great addition.

So we published the book and I waited…

Although When Kings Clash has only been out a short time, the initial response for Mälque has been a big thumbs up. I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant, but as a writer, it’s a great feeling to have your gut instinct confirmed.

I also received praises for another new character, Phinnton, as well as the Worms of Bal-Malin.

But that’s for another time!



Are You Crazy or Just An Author?

So your book is published. Great! And now you’re trying to promote it. Welcome to Fight Club! But what works?

If you search the web, you’ll be inundated with info, promises, sworn testimonies…

I found one company that claims a book trailer is the key to success, never mind the fact that they produce videos for a living.

Others promise to tweet your book to thousands for a small fee.  I decided to try one since they have 44,000 followers. I even went in with a realistic expectation: sell 2 books and get some new followers on Facebook or Twitter. Fail. Waste. Moving on…

And then there are the gurus offering free videos. I watched several but found the info commonplace and felt like I was stuck at an Amway convention. Sure enough, at the end of the freebie, they get to the point of their spiel: sign up for their not-so-free courses for the REAL secrets to success. Maybe it’ll work. Maybe I’m a fool for not buying.  I guess I’m a cynical tightwad who’s not willing to toss in $500 +/_ to find out.

Frustrated, I asked two friends, D.Alan Lewis & Teal Haviland, what their experience has been marketing books. Their candor was refreshing and if nothing else, confirms I’m not going crazy. Not yet.

Have Paid Promotions Increased Sales?

“I have paid for 2 different ads on Facebook and saw zero sales for the books being promoted during the sales drive. I’ve paid for small ads on various websites and have seen little to no sales from the effort. So far, I’ve not found anything that really works well. I know some folks have had success with various social media platforms, but most authors that I talk with are still struggling with sales.  Social media is a great and mostly free way to advertise, but it doesn’t translate into big sales.  Still, everytime I push books on Facebook, I do see a few sales, so it does help.” Alan

“I have paid for advertising on Facebook. From what I can tell, I’ve had little success from it and feel it’s been a waste of my money. I do, however, have author friends who’ve paid for advertising on Facebook and they say, if done right, that it can be very effective. I haven’t tried the things they’ve suggested, yet, because I’m waiting to pay for further advertising when I have my entire series done and released.” Teal

Do You Use Social Media?

 “I do use social media, namely Facebook,Twitter, and a personal blog. Because of the tools available through these sites, I’m able to automatically send every post on Facebook to my Twitter account.  My Amazon Author Page is set to display all my Twitter messages, so everything on Facebook is sent all over the place. I have a blog on Google which is automatically shared on my website and on my Amazon Author page, so again, the word is shared through multiple venues. Since Facebook only allows 5% of your friends to see any kind of marketing post on your page, I found that having multiple pages helps to increase the number of folks seeing an ad.  In my case, I have a personal page, an author page, and 3 other pages that are dedicated to different books/series.” Alan
“I have used social media for marketing, mainly Facebook and Twitter, but I’ve been taking a hiatus from any marketing right now.” Teal

What Has Helped Sales?

“So far, I’ve not found anything that really works well. I know some folks have had success with various social media platforms, but most authors that I talk with are still struggling with sales.  Social media is a great and mostly free way to advertise, but it doesn’t translate into big sales.  Still, everytime I push books on Facebook, I do see a few sales, so it does help.” Alan

“I think the key to the marketing conundrum so many authors find themselves in, is to realize that there are things that will work one time, that you’ll then do for the next book and it might not work at all. Even if you do everything the same. Our industry and what readers consider “hot” are constantly changing and we, as authors, have to be willing to go with the flow. We need to just write the stories we want to write and release them to the world, then do our best to let the readers out there know our book is there.” Teal

Any Sage Advice?

“Write. Rewrite. Edit. Release. Do your best to market, and let it go. Then, rinse and repeat. Your readers will find you, eventually. Make sure they have a lot to get their hands on when they do.” Teal

You Can Sell More Fiction Books!

The Pitch

Okay, let’s be honest. You’re reading this because my title hooked you which means you’re probably an author (fiction) who is trolling the web for the secret amulet that will make you a NY Times success.1

Sorry to disappoint or even mislead, but I’m not your messiah.

So why would I bait you into reading? Do I want to vent and pout and demonize those that are more successful? Is it to manipulate you into buying my books?

I simply want to take an honest look into the marketing dilemma we face as authors and thought that maybe, just maybe, you might want join the discussion.


When I first began, I jumped on the latest trends to find a way to cut through the hoopla of the marketplace.  Remember buttons for FB or your web? How about the crap of “like my book and I’ll like yours” even if we hadn’t read it yet?

2Currently, the market is saturated with authors desperate to try anything to cut through the noise. Supply and demand has created sales gurus waving shiny tickets to the promise land. We join their mailing list, chant the mantra, maybe even shell out some cash. The only thing that changes is they’re a little richer and we’re discouraged, until a new prophet arises, and off we go like a lemmings, hoping that beyond their promise isn’t yet another cliff.

Are You Mad?

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Now that my third book is out, I’m re-evaluating my marketing plan…if nothing more than to find sanity. 3

I recently asked several author friends to reveal their trade secrets, their insights into how to navigate the maze of marketing.

Their answers were candid, vulnerable and insightful.

They also revealed sane minds.

Next Steps

In my next post, I’ll dive into what they shared as well as what I’m going to try next.

It probably won’t help you sell more books but you’ll at least realize you’re not alone…or going crazy.

Free Fantasy Chapter (conclusion)


Blue Skin

Mälque, while awaiting more loot to clean, scanned the surrounding woods. “So you’re certain that crazy man and his gors won’t come back to eat us,” he asked, his voice cracking ever so slightly as his imagination conjured gors devouring people…alive.

As a Wurmlin, he had been trained to the traits of every animal in the woods. Gors were scavengers who feared men and prowled in small packs. That description changed three summers ago when men from their tribe witnessed a village being mauled by the beasts. A baldheaded man mounted atop a massive bull led the slaughter. His assembled gors – a mystery unto itself – were an army of ravaging predators. Jaws snapped arms or legs clean off while paws swatted bodies this way and that with ease. When Mälque asked what had caused the shift in the gors’ disposition, the Wurmlins hushed him with a swat to the head, or wagged their heads and mumbled to themselves.

But he knew the answer. His mother had forewarned about such sightings the summer before.

The Awakenin’.

“Yep, that crazy fool is long gone,” Olke answered, snapping Mälque from his reflection. Olke continued to swat the corpse up and down, listening for the thud or clink of loot or jewelry. “We been followin’ them now for…” he stopped tapping and scrunched up his lips to calculate the amount of time. Unable to do simple mathematics, and not about to let the boys belittle him for such ignorance, he dismissed the problem with a loud huff and blurted, “…a long time…a very long time.”

“Do we always have to steal like this,” Vonn asked in a dull voice. “It ain’t excitin’.”

Olke stopped, leaned back and gave them both a stern look. “You want excitement.”

“Yeah,” Vonn answered with a glint in his eye. “We’re Wurmlins, ain’t we? This ain’t stealin’.”

Olke folded his arms across his large chest and cocked his head. A greasy lock fell over his face, which he cleared with a violent shake of his head. “Well, these kind folk ain’t exactly handin’ their loot to us, now is they?”

Mälque pulled away from his gaze and took in the ash, the blood, the severed limbs, the mangled bodies. “But this…this is…” He once more became overwhelmed by the sights and smells, and could feel his stomach rumbling. He covered his mouth and nose with his sleeved arm.

“Look,” Olke fired, irritated by their tirade about how to make a living as a Wurmlin. “I don’t like it much neither, but what choice do we have? When this Gor King and his army started attackin’ villages, most folk sought refuge at Min Brock. The ones that didn’t,” he used his dagger as a pointer to highlight the death and destruction all around them. “Well, that crazy fool destroyed ‘em all. Even our own kind have scattered or been killed.”

His last words pressed down hard on Vonn and Mälque as they recounted the day their father died, followed soon after by their mother’s demise. From that day forth, per Wurmlin custom, they lived with Olke since he was their only living relative, even if he was a distant cousin. And unfortunately for them, Olke held to the custom that the boys were property – not adopted sons.

Wild dogs lived better lives.

Their mother’s warning echoed in their minds; “Don’t trust no one. Not even other Wurmlins.”

“So now,” Olke continued, “we follow his army of gors, wait ‘til they’re gone and rob the dead. Still thievery. Accordin’ to my codes, anyways.”

“We could go to Min Brock,” Mälque offered, eyes fixated on a child’s mutilated body and longing to see life beyond thirteen summers. “Ain’t nothin’ but dyin’ everywhere.”

Olke’s eyes narrowed; slits of anger burned at Mälque. “I’ll tell ya why not, yung-er.” He held his answer until he had their full attention. “Because we’re Wurmlins!” He thrust his blade at them and spittle flew off his lips. “We’re nomads,” his dagger darted from boy to boy as his tone became more impassioned. “Thieves. Highwaymen. And this here,” he waved his dagger at the woods, “is your home. Always has been. Always will be. You don’t need no castle.”

Olke’s eyes flared with anger as he whipped his hair to intimidate and remind them of his power over them. “Besides,” he added with a smile that was as greasy as his hair, “I’m the only family ya got.”

His last words struck the boys like jabs to the gut and Olke savored the misery that coursed their faces and the despair that weighed down thin shoulders. “Have you no respect for Wurmlin traditions,” he asked as the veins on his forehead pumped with passion. “You should be ashamed. I didn’t have ta take ya in and feed ya, or teach ya how to survive, but I did. You know why? ‘Cause I’m a Wurmlin!” He pounded his chest with pride. “I take care of my own. So never ask such a thing again. Ya hear me? Be proud of your heritage…your bloodline…your….”

Too flustered and perturbed to continue the lecture, he waved them off with his dagger and returned to his task. As he knelt over the body, he mumbled to himself about yung-ers not appreciating the sacrifice of kin.

An odd sound made all three freeze in place.

Training took over and they snapped their heads toward the woods. Without a word, Olke rose and the boys took up positions on either side, daggers drawn, ready to kill or be killed.