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Character Crafting

Quandary

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


Back In The Game

I’m not sure what happened. I was blogging on a regular basis, picking up steam and then BAM!

Actually, I’m fully aware of what happened: LIFE!

All good stuff mind you, but I overextended myself and blogging got pushed to the back burner. Now that I’ve mastered life and all that’s being thrown my way, I thought I’d get something posted.

By the way,  if you’re interested in how you can MASTER LIFE and smack those hard balls out of the park, send me $50 and I’ll mail you my book (soon to be written…no, not really) that gives YOU the keys to unlocking your full potential and live life….(insert bombastic, redundant sales BS)

Back to reality. Below is the free post from Chapter 2 of Tears of Min Brock.

“Guess I showed them who is the boss,” Galadin said, his eyes twinkling with confidence. Elabea, however, wondered if her parchment was what had protected them. Almost like an invisible shield.

Galadin, like his father, was barrel chested and made strenuous tasks like chopping wood look leisurely. His eyes he got from his mother and shone like black pearls when hunting. However, when he became angry, they became more like thunderclouds, even sinister.

Yet, despite his strong physique and towering size, within him was a weakness. Mithe was correct: His father was going mad. Galadin had been successful in concealing this shame from everyone in the village. All, that is, except one.

She was glad Min Brock had forged them together, even if they were outcasts in their own village. They were identical in age, and even in their younger summers, sensed they were different from the other children. Neighbor’s foreign looks made them feel on edge. Huddled friends chilling whispers made them become even more isolated.

So they formed a secret pact, an unspoken allegiance, in order to weather the storm. At the heart of their friendship was a deep understanding that no one else in Hetherlinn could offer, not even their parents. Galadin understood why she needed to escape to the meadow and climb the oak, despite the Oracles, and he listened to her stories, even when they were wilder than anything he had ever hunted.

Likewise, Elabea comprehended why he fled cottage seven and explored the woods, and why she was the one he shared his hunting tales with. Simply put, they knew what it felt like to live in homes full of shame and more importantly, had learned how to survive despite it.

Nearing cottage number seven, Elabea asked,   “Did you see or hear anything odd last night?”

“No, just my father snoring. Why?”

“Well, last night, I saw an amazing creature.” Elabea became increasingly excited as she explained. “Only it wasn’t an animal.” Her speech became faster. “It, I mean he, looked more like a man—only not like us—so I gave him a name…the Moon King, and—”

“Slow down! What are you talking about?”

“Late last night,” she said, focusing on a slower delivery, “I saw a mysterious rider on a flying horse; they both glowed like the moon. I wish you could have seen them! I’m positive the Moon King is the one responsible for shooting the invitations into our doors.”

Galadin tried not to snicker, but this was not the first time he had heard one of her amazing stories. All were fashioned into fantastic proportions.

“Look,” he said, “I’ve hunted through every thicket and meadow the Oracles will allow. Let me assure you that there is no one like the Moon King. The only odd thing I’ve witnessed is a bald hermit. I’ve only gotten a glimpse of him, and I’ve nicknamed him the Wizard of the Wood. But trust me, he’s anything but mystical. Gone are the days of strange beings, magical creatures and mighty warriors.”

Flustered, Elabea snapped, “I know what I saw!”


Who Needs A Friend?

People Who Need People

The older I get the more I appreciate my friends. They’ve stood beside me when others have walked away. They’ve listened when others preached. But they also risked our relationship to tell me the hard stuff about myself or the situation I was in. It’s one thing to hear the truth. It’s another to accept, embrace, and change. Sometimes I listened. And then there were the other times…

Together is Better

Sherlock had Watson. The Lone Ranger had Tonto. Batman had Robin. They were inseparable. Can you even imagine one without the other?  As a writer, I wanted to create a similar bond between the main characters in Tears of Min Brock.  I drew from my own experiences (the good, the bad, the ugly) to add color and depth  so they seemed lifelike. At least that was my intent. 🙂

So here’s hoping you have a few friends to share life with and who love you, warts and all! 🙂

The following is the “FREE” post of Tears of Min Brock, Chapter 2

“Can’t you see?” Elabea said, her voice full of emotion. “If we cannot read, how can we discern true stories from false? You’ve taught us that Claire was destroyed in the war. But doesn’t this parchment tell otherwise?”

Mithe stepped between Elbea and the mob.

“Then allow me to tell you a short story,” Mithe countered, her saggy cheeks wobbling back and forth. “Long ago, during the Dark War, we received parchments just like the one you’re holding. My husband and two sons journeyed to Claire to answer the invitation, as did your father. They were made warriors and began to fight along side the King of Claire.

“In a great battle at Min Brock, the men of Allsbruth were trapped and outnumbered. The Ebonites destroyed them with no mercy, butchering them upon the Gilden Plains! My husband! My sons!! Killed for what? For a parchment from the…” She stopped before her tongue spoke the forbidden name. “He, the one who sent the parchments, did nothing to help, and they died like dogs!”

Mithe enjoyed the pain and distress her words were causing Elabea. She continued her story.

“Your father has never told you his tale, has he?”

Elabea shook her head.

Mithe snickered.

“Quinn, the mighty leader of Hetherlinn, has never told you why he and Gundin were the only survivors of Min Brock?”

Elabea’s eyes became as big the moon. She bit her lip to quell the tears.

“Ah!” Mithe gloated. “Evidently not! Then here is the truth: Your father is a coward! He betrayed us all! Your father and Gundinshould be dead! Not our men! Not my men!

“Now get rid of that cursed parchment before we do it for you!”

The mob rushed forward.

“STOP!”

The voice came from the shadow of a tree behind cottage Number 7. Galadin emerged from the shade and stood beside Elabea.

“Look at this!” the widow snapped, her long finger wiggling at Galadin like a serpent. “Behold the son of Gundin. The greatest warrior to ever walk Hetherlinn! Where is your father now, boy?”

Galadin stiffened his back and glared at her. “Leave Elabea alone! Go back to your worries!”

Mithe continued undeterred. “I’ll tell you where your father is! Mad he is, lost in his old dreams! You’re the son of a madman, Galadin! One day, you’ll join his insanity!”

Galadin’s eyes became slits of rage but he held his tongue. He leaned close to Elabea and whispered, “Let’s get out of here before they charge us.”

She took his hand and he led her toward his cottage, all the while keeping an eye on the unruly crowd. They continued to hurl threats and curses, and even threw stones.


Looking for Love…

…In All the Wrong Places.

Even if you hate Country music, I think you’ll agree that the songwriter really hit the target…or a nerve!

A Treasure Chest

I’ve had seasons when I was a carbon copy of this song. Sometimes I was the recipient. Other times I was the devil. As a writer, these emotions/experiences are a treasure chest for character development.

Acceptance

We all want it. We all crave it. But do we ever find it? In my journey, it’s taken a professional counselor to help me face the truth about myself. Such insight and discovery has not only freed me to be a better friend, husband and dad, but has empowered me as a writer when fleshing out my characters.

So when that guy or girl dumps you, don’t loose heart. Instead, turn them into a character and let ’em have it! 🙂

For those following the “300 x 2” FREE book, here’s the next installment.

Chapter 2

Forged Friendship

Elabea darted away from her home, longing to escape her parents and more importantly, the shackles of the Oracles. She did not consider herself a rebel, or one brave enough to defy Ebon’s might. She simply hungered for two qualities her home and village could not provide.

Love and acceptance.

She glanced at the parchment clutched in her hand. The tingling sensation was gone, but the thought that it had been delivered from Claire sent goose bumps racing over her back. After all, she had been taught that Claire was destroyed in the Dark War, and that it was a land of death and deception. The parchment and the Moon King were proof otherwise.

As she ran, she took in the cottages of Hetherlinn. Constructed from planed boards, they were stained white while the windows, of which there were only two, were sealed with dark green shutters. Thatched roofs sloped off the quaint two story dwellings and nearly touched the ground. However, the most notable feature was the numbers above the unpainted doors. Black stain, sloppily brushed by Ebonite warriors, numbered each cottage.

Another requirement from the Oracles so Ebon can tally us like cows!

Hers was Number 17 and sat at the bottom of the crescent. She liked being far away from the others, especially when her father had had too much wildeberry wine.

Another glance. Another painted number.

Fourteen.

She recalled seeing a young boy, Phinnton, peering at her from his bedroom window. She would wave, but he was too shy, and would dart back into the shades.

At night, the sweet refrains sung by Phinnton’s mother floated like a dream into her bedroom. She would open her shutters and rest on her window frame, soaking up the musical serenade. Every now and then, when the wind was blowing her way, she would catch some of the lyrics.

The Singing Stones of Addoli, she reflected. How I wish I knew what that meant…

Several summers ago, the singing stopped. Elabea assumed the boy was older and grew tired of bedtime lullabies. A rumor spread that she had been whisked away one night by the Ebonites for violating an Oracle. From that day forth, Phinnton and his father became hermits.


I’ve Been Duped!

“Its Beauty is its Deception!”

Have you ever wanted something SO BADLY simply because it was attractive?

Maybe a new car? A relationship? The dream job?  And let’s say you get it only to discover that the car still breaks down, the relationship comes with baggage, or the perfect job is managed by crazy people?

Well, I have! As a writer, I draw upon these experiences to craft my stories. Sometimes I regurgitate it unfiltered through a character and let them deal with the consequences. Now THAT’S fun! Other times I become the magician, getting you to focus on the shiny, red scarf in my left hand while my right hand is preparing to WOW you with a rabbit. Well, not a real rabbit, unless of course that’s part of the plot, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make right now…or is it? 🙂

(For those following the “FREE Book” posts, here’s the conclusion to Chapter 01, Tears of Min Brock.)

Quinn lifted his throbbing head and glared at the women. “Why must you two be so loud?” he thundered.

Elabea remembered a time many summers ago when his eyes sparkled with life, but that was before he went off to fight in the Dark War. Now they were opaque and lifeless. Spying the parchment in the fire, he asked Elabea, “Where did you get that?”

His eyes became icy.

Backing away, she meekly answered, “It was attached to an arrow stuck in our door. What is it?”

It is from the land of lies!” he slurled.

Claire!” Elabea whispered, noting that despite the flames, the parchment was not burning.

“Don’t say the word!” Areall yelled, her placid expression now like churning rapids. Turning her fury on Quinn, she shouted, “Your night of drink is making you talk too much!”

“I’ll talk when and how I like!” he yelled back.

While they argued, Elabea knew this was her chance. Darting to the fireplace, she grabbed a small stick on the hearth and plunged it into the coals.

“Stop!” Quinn roared as he struggled to rise from his chair. “Leave it!” Becoming dizzy, he slumped back down.

“Amazing,” Elabea muttered as she dragged it onto the cool hearth. “It’s not burnt and is even free of soot. It’s so…beautiful.”

“Beautiful?” Areall replied derisively. She crept toward the parchment as if an evil spirit possessed it. “Its beauty is its deception!” she snarled. Unwilling to get any closer, she whispered,“Burn it! Destroy it or you will curse us. The Cauldron will know and see. They will come!”

Elabea calmly picked it up. “They’ve never come before! Besides, how can something so beautiful be evil?”

Areall reached for her but Elabea was too quick. She raced out the door.


Books, Writing & Promo

Today’s post is my grocery list of what I’m taking on these days as an author. Maybe you’ll find it interesting or maybe you’ll be able to relate, but if nothing else, I wanted to share the misery, um, I mean the joy of working this thing called promotion. So here we go…

Book III is at my publisher. I’m excited to get his feedback! More on this later…

Working on bookmarks to use as business cards. I’m not but others with graphic design skills are.

Reaching out to bloggers/fans for interviews and reviews. If you’re interested, drop me a line. If you’re really serious, I’ll toss you a free e-book. Okay, not literally toss like a baseball since it’s digital media but I think you get what I mean.

Getting my map created by my uber talented son. The fact that he will take my chicken scratchings and turn them into something visually appealing will be a miracle in and of itself. The new map will be inserted into Tears and Moon as well as Book III.

Considering posting a short story in my blog but doing so a chapter at a time. Kind of like “tune in next week” sorta thing. Why? Well, because I’d rather write a story than blab into your conscience about this or that. I’ll let my characters do that 🙂

Well, time to go; the list is long and the day is short. Wishing you well in all your endeavors.

JL

 


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