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!



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.

Free Fantasy Chapter (pt. 3)

WhenKingsClash_6x9cover_revised02Blue Skin (pt. 3)

Olke caught the scent of burnt wood. It was faint, barely noticeable, and most people – whether Allsbruthian or even Ebonite – would have missed such a clue. But he was a Wurmlin, a nomadic thief who read the woods, the winds and the streams for the slightest of signs and clues leading to their victims’ whereabouts. Like wolves, Wurmlins could follow a scent for days.

Energized that he was closing in on their target – the village of Tellendale – he increased his pace. When the trees thinned, he hid behind a fat hickory tree and surveyed what lay ahead.

Beyond a grove of saplings sat Tellendale, or what was left of it.

Mounds of white and gray ash sat where cottages, shanties and barns had been. Littering the ground were dead bodies that he assumed were the villagers. Aside from a large bird pecking a corpse, the village was void of life.

Without taking his eyes off the grisly scene, he cupped his hands together, brought them to his mouth and blew through the opening. He fluttered several fingers to create an owl-like sound. In a flash, the boys were by his side.

“Look at ‘em,” Olke half-whispered as he slapped Vonn’s shoulder. “Ripe for the pickin’. Time to go to work, boys.”

With a final glance about the clearing, and a sniff of the wind to make sure that whoever destroyed Tellendale was gone, Olke rose and strutted out into the clearing. Long, dark hair swayed in time to his bold stride, and when a strand fell across his face, he whipped his head to set it free. Broad, determined steps brought him to the closest body where he knelt with dagger in hand and prepared to go to work. He glanced back at the brothers who were lollygagging toward the bodies. Olke snarled his lips and squinted at them.

“Get a move on,” he barked. “Who knows how much time we got.”

Mälque reached him first. As instructed from previous undertakings, he assumed his position near the body. Disgusted by the mutilated flesh, the tunic stained black with blood and death’s sick scent permeating the air, he turned away. “I hate this work. Too much dyin’ everywhere,” he blurted over his shoulder. “I wanna do honest Wurmlin work, like stealin’ or robbin’ or cheatin’.” Bile rose into his throat. It was all he could do not to throw up.

“Sure ya do,” Olke countered with a snort as he patted the dead man’s pockets with the flat side of his dagger. “But that’s ‘cause you’re young, and like most yung-ers, you’re just plain stupid.”

Mälque glared at Olke. He hated the word. Although it was what Wurmlins used to describe boys of his age, Olke used it like a cuss word.

Vonn, unfazed by the gore, plopped down beside Olke who backhanded the boy. “Next time, don’t be late. Now help me find the treasure this dead fool’s tryin’ to take to the grave.”

As he tapped the man’s last pocket, the blade struck something hard. He hit again, producing a muted thud. “You know what that sound means, don’tcha?”

Vonn knew the only answer that would spare him from being whacked again was to do his job. With tongue poking out of the side of his mouth, he slid his fingers into the blood-soaked garment.

“Well,” Olke asked, impatient with his progress.

“Hold on,” Vonn answered while swishing his tongue from side to side as fingers probed the sticky pocket. “There’s too much blood.”

Olke was about to punch him when the boy yanked his hand free and held up the prize for all to see.

A collective gasp rose from all three. Clutched between Vonn’s bloody fingers was a coin, stained with crimson.

“There you are,” Olke sang to the coin, his voice sultry and smooth, as if addressing a lover. “Come to me.” He stretched his hand toward the money. Vonn dropped it into his palm.

“A golden giln,” Olke gushed as he held it up to the light of day between thumb and forefinger.

Stained with blood, it was a shocking reminder of the manner in which they found it as well as its owner’s horrible demise. Yet all three were oblivious to such calamity and instead, gawked in awe at the coin. It promised better days ahead.

“Here, yung-er.” Olke flipped it into the air. “Make ‘er shine.”

Mälque, who had anticipated such an action, had already removed a cloth from his pocket. With eyes riveted on the end-over-end flight of the giln, he caught the coin in the cloth and started wiping the blood off. In no time, the gold glistened; sunlight danced across its surface.

“So, boy,” Olke asked as he pushed himself up from the ground, “what were you sayin’ about an honest trade?”

Mälque shrugged off the question and stared at the coin he twirled between his fingers. Maybe Olke was right. The giln meant hot meals and warm beds in a tavern, a far better life than chewing on rabbit gristle and sleeping in the open, using leaves as a blanket.

Olke held out his palm.

Mälque smirked, and for a brief moment, thought about pocketing the giln and dashing off for the woods. After all, thievery was in his blood, even if it meant robbing another Wurmlin. But when he felt the prick of a dagger through his tunic, and caught Olke’s evil expression, he thought better of his idea. With a heavy sigh and a parting glance at the giln, he surrendered the coin.

“Thata boy,” Olke said as he withdrew his dagger. He flashed the boy a wry smile. “Never rob a robber, I always say.”

He pocketed the coin and led them to the next corpse. They dropped the banter and went back to work robbing the dead.


Kings, Worms & Whispers

Book III is out!WhenKingsClash_6x9cover_revised02

Early reviews are good…

“Lowder has done it again-created a world for us to immerse ourselves-intensity, discovery and a pathway of epic portions into the ‘What ifs’ and the elusive hope.”

I’m Pumped!

What has me really excited are the readers who liked the Worms of Bal-Malin (dragon-like creatures) as well as Phinnton and Mälque: two boys of 13 summers.


Because as a writer, I was excited to create the Worms of Bal-Malin and the adventures of Phinnton &  Mälque; I just didn’t know if the readers would be as juiced. I know it’s still early in the polling, but it looks like my gut instinct was spot on.

Oh, and if you’re interested in purchasing or reading a tidbit, here’s the Amazon Link, or simply click on the book cover.