Tag Archives: je lowder

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!

 

 


Free Fantasy Chapter (conclusion)

WhenKingsClash_6x9cover_revised02

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.


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 8

On the 8th day of Christmas: the continuation of the short story, The Miracle Man. (Previous paragraphs can be found in “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy & Miracles.”)

The south corridor is darker than usual, which is no surprise to Wendell: Doors remain shut when someone dies. Some hide. Some mourn. Some—like kids trying to ward off the Boogie-man—hope that wood, varnish, and steel will delay their fate.

Only one door is open. Yellow light spills into the gloomy corridor. He makes his way to Ira’s room and peers in.

The bed is made. A wheelchair sits in the corner. The room is empty.

A middle-aged man emerges from the bathroom holding some toiletries and spots Wendell hovering in the doorway.  

  “May I help you,” he asks as he makes his way to the bed where a duffel bag sits.

 “Ira Rubin. Is it true? He’s gone?”

 The man stashes the toiletries in the bag. “Went in his sleep.” He zips it shut. “Were you a friend?”

“I suppose, although now that I think about it, I wasn’t a very good one.”

The man grabs the bag and heads for the door. He extends his hand to Wendell. “I’m Cliff Rubin, Ira’s son.”

Wendell stares in disbelief at Cliff’s hand and then into his face. Hooked nose, close-set eyes, piercing gaze. Just like Ira.

He throws off his doubts, regains his wit, and shakes Cliff’s hand. “I’m Wendell Bennett. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Cliff sucks in air and gives a solemn nod. He reaches into his breast pocket and pulls out a white envelope.

“He left this for you.”

“What’s inside,” he asks, fearing the worst news possible.

“No idea; yours is sealed shut, just like mine was.” He taps the pocket holding his letter. “Kinda how he lived: all sealed up, keeping everyone away, all his thoughts secret.” Finger tap, tap, taps. “I sat on his bed for over an hour working up the courage to open it.” He pauses and draws in a deep breath. “Figured it was a suicide note.”

“Suicide…” Wendell staggers against the doorframe.

 “No,” Cliff says as he helps Wendell maintain his balance. “That came out wrong. I thought it was, but it turns out to be an apology.”


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 7

On the 7th day of Christmas: the continuation of the short story, The Miracle Man. (Previous paragraphs can be found in “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy & Miracles.”

The next morning, Wendell Bennett shuffles down the north wing of Villa Velencia. Up ahead is a women’s silhouette. He shields his eyes for a better look and inches out of the shadow. She recognizes him and approaches with sure steps. Wendell, uncertain who she is, stops. She closes the gap and buries her face into his flannel shirt. Ruth’s perfume is intoxicating and he relishes her body close to his, but is unable to fathom why she’s embracing him.

“He’s gone,” she whimpers.

“Who’s gone?”

She releases him and pulls out a Kleenex to dot her eyes. “Ira. He passed in his sleep.”

“He…died?”

“I came to you as soon as I heard. You were his only friend.”

She let the moment hang and notes the pain crossing his face like a dark cloud.

She touches his arm. “I know he was annoying, but you should have heard him talk about you.”

Wendell takes in her eyes that dazzle like sapphires.

“Oh, how he admired you,” she gushes. “Said he’d never met a smarter man. Couldn’t wait to get helped into his wheelchair every morning just so he could talk with you. You gave him such joy. Did you know that?”

Wendell stares at the floor, his mind a whirlwind of questions. In a flash, he remembers their bet.

“The miracles,” he mumbles.

“What?”

“I need to see him.”

“You can’t; they’ve already taken him to the funeral home.”

Wendell raises his eyes. “I still need to see his room.”

Ruth leads him by the hand toward The Commons. They reach the south corridor, and Wendell pats her hand.

“I need to go alone.”

She considers arguing the point but lets him go.

He waddles away as “Little Drummer Boy” fades into “O Holy Night.”


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!”


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.


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