Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Are You Following The Fear?

Several weeks ago, I read a blog post by marketing professor, Ann Handley, entitled Follow the Fear.  In the post, Handley recounts how she was invited to speak in front of a large group and originally turned it down.  She didn’t turn it down because she was busy, or because she’s afraid of speaking in front of large groups.  Ann makes her living speaking in front of groups.  She turned it down because the subject they asked her to speak on—herself—was scary. 

The piece got me thinking about how many times along the road of life I’ve stayed on the path of comfort.  I can tell you that leaving New York and moving to Southern California, where I knew one person, a distant cousin, to begin a career in writing of all things, was not comfortable for me.  Yet, it’s my career that’s given me everything I have.  Most times, when I’ve ventured outside my comfort zone, good things have happened.  Even the idea of putting my TV career on hold to write a young adult novel turned out well.  I wouldn’t be here chatting on this blog if I hadn’t ventured outside the old comfort zone. 
Lately, especially since I’ve been getting older and more set in my ways, I’ve been opting for lots of comfort.  Reading Ann Handley’s piece has given me pause.  If I truly want greater success, I must be willing to do what those Star Trek guys did and go where no man had gone before… or at least, where I haven’t gone before.  My question to you is how willing are you to venture outside your comfort zone?  I hope this short piece makes you think about it.  Greater success can be waiting just around the corner, but you’ll probably have to go beyond your comfort zone to find it. 

I hope this piece makes those of you who are fat and happy in your comfort zones, think. And here’s the link to Ann Handley’s blog post, complete with video from the speaking engagement she originally turned down. I hope it inspires you just as it has inspired me.  Thanks: FollowThe Fear

I’d love to hear from you about your own comfort zone challenges.

Keep Reading-Keep Writing!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My First Animated Video


You still haven't tried the first book in the Falling Angels Saga--Boyfriend From Hell-- yet?  Have you seen the reviews?

Serenity said:
        I read this book thinking that it would be a good read but no, it was much more than that. This book was amazing.

Tee said:
      Boyfriend From Hell is one of those stories that captures you from the very beginning. I knew I was going to love it right from the start...

"Reading Junkie" said:
      I love YA books and I sometimes roll my eyes at some of the stuff out there but I really liked this one. It kept me glued to the pages (screen?) and then when it was over, I immediately bought the next one in the series.

If great reviews aren't enough, I have four more rock solid reasons you should try Boyfriend From Hell now, and I created a short animated video to explain them to you.   Please take a minute to watch the video and find out why you should push The Falling Angels Saga, starting with Boyfriend From Hell to the top of your to read list.  Watch the animated short video now:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Story Door

I recently read a post about Stephen King in The Atlantic telling how he spends months or even years crafting that most important opening sentence: Writing Opening Sentences.  This got me thinking about my own craft.  I don't spend as much time on the opening sentence as I do on where I choose to enter a story--the story door.  Where you come into a story, can make or break your story for the reader.

In the epic poetry I studied as a literature major in college, the rule is to start in the midst of things.  Never, ever start at the beginning.  This was one of the first things I learned on my journey to becoming a professional writer.  I soon discovered, most great works follow this age-old rule.  Star Wars starts in the midst of a battle.  The Godfather starts in the midst of a wedding.  Memento starts in the midst of a chase... or am I chasing him (you have to know the movie to get that one).

Some stories, however, start with what we in show biz call "a handle."  In short, a handle is something you tag on, but it's not needed.  It's nice to have a handle on that pot because it helps when picking it up while hot... but you don't actually need it.

I chose a long, colorful handle, or preamble, to set my latest project, The Memory Giver in motion.  I got the idea from Stephen King, who often creates a folksy style before getting to the meat of things. Yet, I decide to drop the handle, in fact, I dropped the entire opening, because I felt it took too long to get the story going.  Some of my favorite authors are quite good at using them.  I, however, felt it slowed me down, and I have an overwhelming fear of losing readers.  So, I dropped the handle/preamble for a more traditional (EVL) type opening.  This afternoon, I came across the original opening  and thought, hey, I like this opening.   So, I thought I'd share it with you.  Here goes:

It Started With A Curveball
The curveball is one of the greatest inventions on God’s green earth.  Watching a perfectly thrown curveball twisting through the air in mind-bending boomerang-like fashion is akin to watching one of the world’s, great natural wonders.   It’s like coming upon the Grand Canyon.   Look at that.  Why’s it there—who knows?  Just sit back and enjoy it.
          Fred Goldsmith claimed he was the first to throw a curveball on a sweltering summer day in August of 1870 at Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn.  He called it his skewball.  Drove the batters nuts.  Of course, around the same time, Candy Cummings claims to have invented it as well.  Don’t ask.  Just sit back and enjoy it.
          At the height of its popularity the curveball entered the lexicon as a metaphor as in Oop, you just threw me a curveball, meaning, you just presented me with something I did not see coming… which leads me to our story.  It begins, with the throwing of a curveball—not a real curveball—we’ll leave those for the spaghetti-armed pitchers.  Our story begins with a metaphoric curveball. 
On of June 15th 1986, just past midnight, Phoebe McKenzie entered the bedroom of her daughter, Allison.  Pooh Bear's nightlite gave off a gentle glow, making the room seem warm and cozy.  Phoebe looks down on her daughter, so peaceful in sleep, and knows this may be the last peace the child has for quite some time. She kneels and shakes the girl gently.  “Shh.  Get your brother up.  We’re leaving.”

There you have it.  I hope you enjoyed it. You will never see that opening in print.  It turned out be a two day exercise for me/us.  No, it wasn't time wasted.  I get something out of everything I write--even the worst stuff. I think it's pretty good.  Still, you'll never see it in print.  Just here.  I'd like to hear what you think.  Like it or hate it, let me know.

One reason I wanted to share the opening with you is to use it as a preamble (story door) to my... I guess I should say our latest project.  As I said earlier, it's called The Memory Giver.  It's a horror/Thriller I'm currently writing with my horror writing alter ego, Sal Conte.  If you follow either of us on Twitter (@Evanlowe, @SalConte1) we'll both be talking about it in the weeks leading up to its debut.  The Memory Giver will be available for FREE in chapter-by-chapter installments several months before it goes on sale. If you'd like to know more about when you can start reading, stay tuned.  The first chapter should be available in a month or so.  Thanks for your time.

Keep Reading/Keep Writing!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Use Emotional Anchors To Turn Your Book Into a Page-Turner

I'm going to tell you a secret.  It's a secret that took me years to develop, and yet it's a very simple secret.  This secret has prompted reviewers to say things like this:

Wow, man, this series just gets better and better...Heck, I read both books 2 and this one in the same day.
Michelle's review of Heaven Sent

Lord I started reading it at work and then when it was time to leave I switched over to my Kindle and kept reading it. That is how much I loved this story.
Kyle Jacobson's review of Earth Angel

This book is a page turner until the very end! You get to enjoy some hairy and even fun adventures.
Lettee Shelton's review of Falling

This is a sample of over 1300 mostly four and five star reviews and ratings my books have received on Goodreads, many of them claiming my books are page-turners.

How do I do it?  How do I write books that keep readers up all night (more than one reviewer has said this).  The very simple secret is I use emotional anchors.  I hook the reader with my character's emotions.  You're probably thinking "that's no secret. Anyone can do that."  You're right, anyone can.  Yet, it took me over 20 years to figure out that the key to a page-turner wasn't plot, or intrigue, or mystery, it was emotion.

I'm going to share a sample of my latest work with you to show you what I mean.  Notice the scene is not propelled by the action, it's propelled by what's happening to the character emotionally.  In this selection, six year-old Marty has been left at home alone by his older sister, who was supposed to be babysitting him:

         With both Phoebe and Allison gone, the apartment was quiet.  It was nighttime quiet, even though Marty could see the bright June sun streaming in through the living room blinds, casting long shadows onto the faded carpet.

         He looked down at the treasure Allison had dumped into his pillow fort before she left.  Think I'll read.  I'm a big boy now, and that's what big boys do.  We don't play, we read.

         Marty picked up his favorite book, Tall Timber Tales, about Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox  He decided the read the part where babe drank the entire Grand Coulee River.  He wasn't sure how big the Grand Coulee was, but drinking any sized river was a big drink of water.

         What Was that?

         A sound.  A soft, sliding sound had come from Marty and Allison's bedroom.  It sounded as though someone or... something had slid out from underneath his bed.

         "Hello."  No answer.  Of course there wasn't an answer.  There's nothing there.  It's jut my magination.  Allison complained about his overactive magination all the time.

"I know there's no monster there," Marty called out.  "So you may as well get back under the bed."  Nothing.  

         Marty glanced down at the book in his lap.  He folded it back to the picture of Paul and Babe on the cover.  He enjoyed staring at the picture because when he did, he magined himself hangin' out with old Paul and babe.  He could magine so good that sometimes...

Marty's attention was again drawn to the bedroom.  He peered wide-eyed around the arm of the old couch because this time he was certain he'd heard the closet door opening, certain he now heard whispering--monster voices.

         I gotta get outta here.  The thought drifted in like an early season snow, yet stuck like the first big fall of the year.  If I don't leave now, all they'll find of me are bones and clothes.  Monsters only eat the good stuff.  Then another thought drifted in--scaredycat.

         That's what Allison would call him for being so afraid.  And I thought you were a big boy... I AM A BIG BOY!  

I'm going to stop there.  If you're like most readers, you'll want me to continue.  You'll want me to continue until you've turned the last page.  And here's the twist.  It's not the possibility of monsters or the mystery of what will happen next that hooked you.  It's Marty's emotional state.  You're anchored to it because you recognize and understand it.  Even if you've never been left alone as a child, you understand how vulnerable that person must feel.  Your emotions anchor you to the character's emotions--and now you're hooked.  My books are a roller coaster ride of character emotions.

Yes, there'rs mystery, romance, battles with demons and escapes from hilltop castles.  The illusion is the reader gets hooked on those things.  But that's just the illusion.  My goal is to move you from emotional anchor to emotional anchor until the end.  Lots of books have mystery, romance and great battles.  Those things have occurred in many of the books you've put down and never returned to.  So hook your reader into your character's emotional state, and you'll keep them hooked to the end.  That's my secret.  It's the reason readers love my books.  If you want them to love your books, hook them with emotional anchors.

Happy Reading/Happy Writing!

The sample chosen is from my latest, a horror/thrill I'm writing with Sal Conte, currently entitled The Memory Giver.

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Interview With Myself Part II

Sal Conte

Question: Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published?

E: When my first novel, Never Slow Dance With A Zombie, first came out, my publisher set up a number of reading/signings.  One of them was at Book Soup, a well known indie book store here in Los Angeles.  I arrived early to set up.  There were a number of young women milling about outside the store.  I didn't think anything of it, and then heard from a store worker they were there for me.  How incredibly exciting that was, to have fans taking time out of their day to came and see me.  So gratifying.  In fact, it was awesome.  I'll never forget it.

Question: Where do you find yourself getting inspired--sitting in your writing den at home, our in nature, or in a crowded place, full of bustle and noise?

E: I am constantly bombarded with ideas, notions, inspiration.  This can come sitting alone, watching a movie, while working, in the middle of a conversation--anywhere, anytime.  Recently I was at a movie screening when one of the scenes triggered an idea.  I had to go out into the lobby to write it down.  Inspiration is all around me no matter where I am.  It's my blessing and my curse.

Question: Can you tell us more about your current projects?

I'm very excited to tell you I started writing a horror/thriller.  It's in the very early stages, but I'm writing it with my horror writing alter ego, Sal Conte.  I plan to premiere it in chapters very soon on Watpad.  Both Sal and I will be tweeting about it.  That should be fun, so follow us on Twitter: @EVanLowe @SalConte1.  I've also been working on a very neat TV project, but I won't mention it until it becomes more real.  TV projects often don't materialize.  I'm also excited because I have several new things for you to read that will be available this year, including my FREE ebook novella, I Want You Back!  Follow me and stay tuned for updates on everything.

Question: What books are you reading now?

I recently finished reading Memoirs of a Sword Swallower.  This was research for a project I thought I was going to work on, but decided to work on later.   I'm also reading The Stone Man by Luke Smitherd.

Question: Do you have any specific thing you'd like to say to readers?

E: Yes.  If anyone is interested in reading my Watpad project, or following any of my exploits in 2014, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter for special friends ( or frans, as I call them).  This is not my regular newsletter. This one contains more intimate details of my writing life, along with contests just for my frans.  I don't send it out often, so I won't be loading up your inbox with junk.  If you're interested, please email me at info@evanlowe.com under the subject heading "The 25" and I will add you to my frans list.  While you're at it, please sign up for and follow me on Watpad.  This is where the new book will premiere for FREE.  It's the only place you can read it.

Question: What's your favorite season?

E: Summer.  I blame it on being born in June.  June 22nd.  I love warm, even hot, weather.

Question: What was your favorite children's book?

E: My favorite children's books are the Harry Potter series.  I wish they were around when I was a child.  My favorite book in the series is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Thanks for stopping by for my two part series.  I hope you enjoyed getting to know me better. If you have any follow up questions, please state them in the comments.  I'd love to hear from you.  In the mean time, Happy Reading/Happy Writing.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My Interview With Myself Part I

Falling Launch Paty

During the Falling blog tour I did a number of interviews.  I culled what I felt were my most interesting questions and answers for you, my frans.  Here for your reading pleasure is my two part series...

My Interview With Myself

Question: What prompted you to choose the young adult genre?

E: I never planned on writing YA.  The genre kind of chose me.  In 2001 I developed a TV series for the Disney Channel--Even Stevens.  I'd never done anything other than prime time TV before that.  During the process, I discovered I remembered my teen and pre-teen years as if it was yesterday.  Not so much the actions of those years, but the intense emotions.  After Even Stevens, I came up with an idea for another TV show that Disney didn't buy.  I tried selling the idea to Nickelodeon, but there was no interest there either.  So I decided to write it as a novel.  During my writing journey, I came up with a crazy idea for another novel. That crazy idea wouldn't let go.  I wound up abandoning the first novel and wrote Never Slow Dance With A Zombie.  I've been writing paranormal YA with humor ever since.  By the way, I never went back to the original novel.

Question: Do you feel that your TV, play, and screenwriting experience has influenced your novels.  If so, how?

E: Working in television definitely influenced my ability to write the way I do today.  Early in my career, I was fortunate enough to write for Bill Cosby and The Cosby Show.  It was there I learned how to interject humor into story-telling. I knew how to write a good joke before then, but The Cosby Show had a rule no other show had at that time--no jokes in the script.  I had to learn how to write humor without telling a joke.  If you've read any of my novels you know how humorous they are.  I learned that very important skill writing for The Cosby Show.

Question: What's your typical day like?

E: Since writing Never Slow Dance With A Zombie, I've maintained a pretty strict schedule of working out (exercise) in the morning, writing during the day with a few breaks for food and errands, and finishing in time to enjoy the evenings with family and friends.  This past year, however, I've started inching back into TV and film, making a shambles out of my once neat schedule.  As we speak, I write whenever I'm not working on a TV or film project.  Not ideal, and I definitely wouldn't recommend it, but it's how things are right now.  I need to create a new writing schedule to accommodate my other projects.

Question: Besides a great imagination, what other skills do you think an author needs to possess in order to write successful YA paranormal novels?

E: I think all authors need to be good observers of the human condition.  Our characters cannot be puppets, created just to move our plots along.  They must act and react as we might act, out of their own fears, desires and needs.  Characters must be relatable, and that comes from observing others and ourselves, and infusing our characters with that humanness. This, I believe, is the greatest skill an author can possess.

Question: If you were stranded on a desert island, which of your characters would you want by your side?

E: That would have to be Aunt Jaz.  If you're a fan of The Falling Angels, you know throughout the series, there are very few times when Aunt Jaz isn't cooking, or baking or talking about good food.  I'm sure Aunt Jaz would find something on that island that she could make taste delicious. She also has a great sense of humor and a big, boisterous laugh.  Laughter would be the perfect medicine as we waited to be rescued.

Question: Favorite Food?

For the past several years it's been pizza... and beer.  Yes, pizza and beer are a food group  ;-)

Question: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

E: My most important advice for would-be professionals is to get into the habit of finishing your work.  When I taught writing at USC (The University of Southern California) I can't tell you how many talented writers I came across who never had careers because they didn't develop the discipline to complete their work. Don't worry so much about making it perfect. Do that after you've completed the draft.  You can't have a career without a body of work, and you can't have a body of work if you don't complete things.  This is good advice for life in general, by the way.  Nuf said?

I hope you enjoyed part I.  If you have follow-ups to any of the questions, please state them in the comments section, and I will answer them as soon as I can.  And please come back Friday for part II of My Interview With Myself.   My latest novel, Falling is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and ibooks.  Pick up a copy now.