Tag Archives: books

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!

 

 

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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


Canva: Easy & Fun

Canva

Maybe this is old news, but for me, discovering Canva was like finding a candy store in my back yard.

Canva is a website for creating digital images for social media, printing, books, etc. Most of the layouts/images can be used for free and those that aren’t can be used for $1. Just be sure to read the terms of the agreement.

My Experience

Here are a couple of samples that took just minutes to make and were out on Twitter in no time. Not only is Canva easy to use and navigate, it’s just down right fun!

And did I mention it’s free?

Martyr's 01 Twitter 01


Out With The Old…

New Nook!

New Nook!

Changes!

In one month we:

  • downsized to a condo.
  • became empty nesters.
  • I had rotator cuff surgery.

One of the perks has been “letting go” of my office and Mac G4 for the nook and iMac (pictured.) My only regret is that we didn’t do this sooner!

Learning Curve

I wear a sling 24/7, and since I’m not left-handed, life has slowed down. Add to that trying to learn new software and there are days I feel I’m not progressing at all. But I am, just at a snail’s pace. Too bad I’m a hare!

Writing 

I’ve always been a Microsoft Word guy but I’m rethinking this choice. I’m not about to shell out huge bucks for Office when all I want is Word so I may just opt to use Pages that comes on the Mac. From dabbling with it, I think it will do everything I need. Which gets me to my question…

What do you use?


Step Into My World

Characters

When creating characters, I draw from actors, athletes, politicians, neighbors, etc., and use their physical appearance or personality traits for the basic form. Next, I develop them with more detail so that they fit in my story.

In Tears of Min Brock, I created Mithe from bits and pieces of people I’ve come across in life. But was she believable?

Welcome!

Months later while dining out, I glanced up from my Teriyaki Chicken to witness Mithe waddling in! She didn’t have all of the physical characteristics I’d imagined, and I’m sure she was a much nicer person too, but nevertheless, there she was. My point is that the world is full of funny, interesting, weird, odd, stunning, horrible, beautiful people just waiting to step into your story’s world.

For those following the “FREE” book posts, here’s the next installment.

Passing each dwelling, she noticed all had a crystal arrow stuck in its door. The parchments rustled in the wind like dried corn stalks. Curious, she slowed her pace.

I’m the only one who’s removed the arrow and untied the parchment.

She suppressed her fears until nearing the communal fire, she heard her neighbors whispering and saw them pointing at the arrows. Anxiety and fear sparked within Elabea’s thoughts.

Mithe, the old widow, spied Elabea and most noticeably the parchment clutched in her hand.

“Look!” she hissed to the assembled families. “Here comes Quinn’s only child! Behold what the homely girl is holding!”

The whispers stopped. Eyes stared at her parchment. Children hid behind their parents. Elabea stopped cold in her tracks.

Mithe wobbled toward her, leaning heavily upon her thick, twisted cane. Wrapped about her head and shoulders was a dark tattered blanket; a few long, gray hairs protruded out.

Peering from the shadows was a round face whose flesh no longer fit the bone. Seventy summers had covered it with large, thick wrinkles, some of which cascaded off her high cheekbones like floppy saddlebags. A furrowed brow, wrinkled by bitterness, concealed her pain-filled eyes. The one feature that made Elabea cringe was her voice. Steam hissing out of a pot that had been on the coals too long.

Mithe raised a long, bony finger accusingly at Elabea. “Destroy that invitation before it destroys us!”

“So it’s an invitation,” Elabea cooed, delighted to finally know the note’s contents.

Mithe’s eyes narrowed, angry with herself for inadvertently revealing the parchment’s message. Regaining her composure, she continued her tirade.   “Do you wish to curse us? I command you to destroy it!”

“Why is everyone so afraid of it? What’s it an invitation to?”

Elabea searched their faces. “It’s from Claire, isn’t it?” she asked them.

The crowd pressed toward her.

“Silence!” one man shouted. “The Oracles forbid you to speak the name!”

“Death will come! We’ll be cursed!” yet another threatened.

“Take your parchment and leave us…NOW!” a woman boomed.

“I don’t believe the Cauldron can hear,” Elabea countered. A corporate gasp erupted from the crowd. Undeterred, Elabea continued. “What if the Ebonites tell us such tales in order to control us with our own fears?”

“Stupid waif!” Mithe hissed. “You know nothing of such things!”

“You’re right,” Elabea replied in defense, “I’m ignorant because no one has taught me such things. You refuse to teach us how to read, so how can I know if I cannot read for myself?”

The crowd stepped closer, but all eyes were on the parchment, as if it held unspeakable powers.

Or evil.


Calling The Curious

Good morning! Today is a shameless plug so I’ll make it short & sweet.

March 21 at 10 PM CST, yours truly will be interviewed for his FIRST blog talk radio show. (Cue raucous applause sfx.)

I’m flattered and humbled anyone would be interested in interviewing me or listen to what I have to say, so it should prove interesting on many fronts. And since I’m an old fart and I’m usually asleep at this time, the interview will be an exercise in willpower & caffeine consumption. 🙂

So…

If you’re wondering what I sound like (here’s a flashback post on the topic) or curious about my War of Whispers series or waging bets in Vegas on whether I can stay awake and attentive for that long, then I hope you’ll tune in.

If nothing else, wish me luck!


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