Thursday, February 21, 2013

Use Humor To Distinguish Your Voice

One of the more gratifying things I hear about my writing is that it’s funny.  That’s gratifying because I decided early on to use humor to distinguish myself from other YA authors in my genre.  It seems to have worked because I regularly get tweets and emails from fans that’ve read one of my books and can’t wait to read another. If you’re a fairly new author reading this, I can tell you first hand that adding humor to your work can help distinguish your voice from the many other authors writing in your genre (Unless, of course, your genre is humor).

One of the keys to unleashing your humor is the point of view chosen for your story or characters. When Charles Schultz looked at the world through the eyes of Charlie Brown or Lucy Van Pelt, we laughed. In the cartoon below he uses Snoopy to find humor in a broken heart.
Point of view allows a writer to comment on things that might not seem funny at first glance. By using humor, authors can have their serious points resonate with readers even better.  It’s all in the angle of attack.

While Charles Schultz did it with Snoopy and the kids, you can do it with any of your characters. A few years ago I was starting a novel about a girl whose father was a corporate whistle blower. The family went into the witness protection program, relocating from New York City to a small community outside of Denver. My protagonist was faced with the unhappy situation of leaving her friends and everything familiar behind. A situation like this can be traumatic for any fifteen year-old. But I wanted to take the trauma out of it and show how resourceful my protagonist could be. So I infused in her the attitude that starting over was good:

If I have to go where nobody knows me, then why not start over as a fourteen year old? she thought. I’ve already made all the fourteen year old mistakes. And I’ll know all the work in school, since I just completed ninth grade. This, my protagonist surmised, would give her more time for her fabulous social life.

By giving my protagonist a slightly skewed (or off-beat) point of view, I gave her the chance to be funny. There’s no humor in the story yet, but with this POV, and compounding the lie that goes along with it, it becomes easier to come up with humorous situations for the characters. I bet you can think of two or three humorous situations you could place my character in as you read this.

If you give your stories or characters a slightly off beat POV, they will more easily lend themselves to humor. Rule of Thumb: Don’t shoot down the middle when you want to add humor to your story. How will you know if you’ve got the right POV? If you’re smiling as you think about it, you’re on the right track.

If you’ve read Boyfriend From Hell or any of the books in The Falling Angels Saga, you know I have a distinctive, humorous voice.  If you haven’t read me yet, I hope you'll give one of my books a try.  Peace.

Monday, February 18, 2013

From Corona With Love

Last year I had the privilege of doing my very first reading for an elementary school audience when I visited Corona Elementary school in Los Angeles.  My books are for an older audience and I didn't know how the younger kids were going to take to them or me.  Turns out, I had a great time.  The students even sent me some wonderful thank you notes complete with their own personal art. If you'd like to see the post with the thank yous go here (Fan Letters...)  This year when my friend Sam Contreras (teacher at Corona) asked me to again participate in Career Day I jumped at the opportunity. 

When I arrived at Corona I was ushered into a room that had been decorated by the kids with artwork of themselves in different careers.  It was very creative. There was a lawyer visiting the school that day, and a fireman and a real estate agent among others.  I discovered this year I'd be addressing the fourth grade.  So slightly older than last year, but I feared I might be repeating myself as I'd brought the same book with me to read from: Never Slow Dance With A Zombie.  I chose NSDWAZ because the title alone would win me some favor.  I had a boat load of bookmarks leftover from the original promotion so I brought those along as leave behinds.

As it turned out, I didn't have anything to worry about.  Most of the children I met hadn't been exposed to me, and the few that had were happy to see me again.  They thought I was cool.  (Yes, old-ass me was cool to nine year-olds).  I've read the section from NSDWAZ I'd chosen many times.  I read it last year. It's short, exciting and funny.  When I finished a girl's hand went up in the air.  "What's a freshman?" she asked.  I say in the book that the first floor girls bathroom at Salesian high was the domain of "freshman, freaks and geeks."

The reason I bring this up is I'm always surprised by some of the questions young people ask.  Why would a nine year-old know what a freshman is?  I'd never thought about it, but I was happy for the question.  I think I gave a satisfactory answer--she said I did--but I've been thinking about the question ever since, because when we write for young people we have to consider that certain language we wouldn't think twice about can be a stumper for them.  I never write down to my audience, so in my writing, I pretty much use the same language I'd use when talking to you.  I don't intend on changing that.  As one of my teachers used to say "That's why they invented dictionaries." To me, the question served as a reminder that as sophisticated as children are today, they're still children with a lot to learn.  Something to remember when crafting young characters.

I read for three classes that day and one boy in the back of each class asked the same exact question--could I tell him the end of the book... You know, so he wouldn't have to read it.  This also served as a reminder that even in this sophisticated 21st century world we live in, boys are still boys.  I look forward to next year.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Did The Groundhog See His Shadow?

It's  February already.  I haven't blogged since I wrote my New Year's Post in early January.  I just looked over my plan for 2013 and I'm happy to say I'm on target with most of what I laid out.  That's good news.  How's it going with your resolutions and plans?  If you discover your best laid plans for 2013 have already gone astray, don't be a groundhog and give up on them.  Reverting back into your hole isn't going to accomplish anything, especially your goals. Heck, it's only February.  Pretend that tomorrow is the beginning of the year and start over.

That's what I'm going to do with the few plans I let slide last month.  Just start over.  My dad used to tell me "You can't fail unless you stop."  In other words, if your plans have all gone to hell, but you keep trying, you haven't failed.  Just give it
another go.

One of the things I did accomplish in January was finishing up the rewrite of my fun, paranormal novella, I Want You Back.  If you're a member of my fran club The 25, I want you to know that the book will be available for you, FREE as promised, some time late February or early March.  This book will not be available to regular buyers.  It will only be available to members of The 25, and like I said, it's FREE.  If you're not a member of The 25, but you've purchased a book or two of mine and consider yourself a fan, I suggest you join.  What is The 25?

Several months ago I got the idea to build an online group of fans that supported me as an author.  In John Lockes' book How I Sold A Million Ebooks in 5 Months he said while we'd all like to have 10,000 fans we can rely on to buy our books, start with twenty-five.  So that's what I did.  I sought friends and fans (frans) who liked me and my books and wanted to support me.  I call my group The 25... get it?  Of course, I hope to have 10,000 of you out there as members one day, but the name will always remain The 25.  You can read the initial The 25 post HERE.  Anyway, if any of you reading this would like to join The 25, just email me ( and I will add you to the list.   I have big plans for us this year. All members get to participate in events, member only contests, as well as the free copy of I Want You Back as my way of showing my gratitude for being my fran.

In other news, I'm happy to announce that my latest book, Heaven Sent has been getting some great reviews.  I tried really hard to make this the best of The Falling Angels Saga so far, and from what people are saying, I've succeeded.  Check out my awesome reviews here: AMAZON. GOODREADS.  I could still use more reviews on my Amazon pages (US and UK).  Those pages are looking a little anemic. If you've read the book and enjoyed it, why not stop by my page Amazon and leave a short review.  It would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

A few of you were promised autographed copies of Heaven Sent for participating in my cover reveal last November.  The hard copy of the book still isn't ready yet.  I saw in an email they had some problems with the spine.  As soon as it's available, I'll be getting your books out to you.  I haven't forgotten you.

Many of you have asked about the fourth and final book in the saga.  My publisher requested he have a draft in August, and if I get it in on time, you should see the final book around the end of the year.  Once again, I'm going to take my time with this one.  I want to knock your socks off with this last book in the saga.  Oh, yeah.

That's it for now.  I just wanted to touch base. Now I need to get back to writing.  I hope everyone had an awesome January and your February is getting off to a good start.