Writing teen romance in the age of the iPhone

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Teenagers communicate via text messaging nowadays. Gone are the fights between siblings to get off the phone or an angry father hanging up the phone because his daughter has been talking to the boyfriend he highly disapproves of for the past three hours.

But texting is how we communicate in 2012. Even I engage in texting, though I suspect something I text will eventually wind up on Damn You Auto Correct.

POLTERGEEKS best buds  Julie and Marcus communicate via text message and as an author I can’t tell you how hard it is to present teen romance when both parties are typing words as opposed to exchanging glances or offering a gentle caress. You can’t do a gentle caress on an iPhone save for texting a picture of one.

This is very frustrating for me.  Julie and Marcus think I’m lame. I probably am, actually.

Jules: Hey.

HawkingFan: Hey. Sup?

Jules: Not much. Mom is on a tear.

HawkingFan: She’s crying? WTF?

Jules: :/ No. She’s in grounding mode.

HawkingFan: Gotcha. So last night was awesome. 🙂

Jules: Really? I’d have thought that a serial killing demon would scare the sh@t  out of a person.

HawkingFan: No not that. That WAS scary. I’m talking about our date.

Jules: Our date got crashed by a demon – remember?

HawkingFan: Yeah but it was still awesome.

Jules: :/ Demons are not awesome. They r evil incarnate.

HawkingFan: *rolls eyes* No. Our date was awesome.

Jules: 🙂 Ya. It was. *swoon*

HawkingFan: U R swooning? Did you swoon during our date? What does swooning look like?

Jules: I don’t know … it looks like swooning ok? What r u doing?

HawkingFan: Calculus. I am swooning while I work out this formula.

Jules: Cool. So do you miss me?

HawkingFan: Yes. Of course I miss you.

Jules: Do u think Cummings gets texting?

HawkingFan: Well he could have given me a cooler handle. 

Jules: Well he is old.

HawkingFan: And bald. Do old bald guys get teen romance?

Jules: I doubt it. He doesn’t understand why teenagers don’t talk on the phone.

HawkingFan: *rolls eyes* Well why talk when u can text.

Jules: Precisely. When I’m 44 I promise not to be so obtuse about technology.

HawkingFan: We won’t be texting when we r 44. Everything will be telepathic.

Jules: *grins* Will that be on a high speed network? It might be expensive.

HawkingFan: Probably roaming charges too.

Jules: Yep. Well … this has been a romantic discussion. I heart u.

HawkingFan: I heart u back. Go slam evil or something. I need to get this Calculus homework done.

 

 

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Stuff I’d like to see in YA (As in books for boys)

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I would kill to see a teen version of The Defiant Ones.

 

Oh no, not another list! 🙂

Anyone who knows me knows full well that I’m a notorious list maker. Everything must be listed because without a list I’m quite literally, a mess. (Seriously, when I come to London in October to launch POLTERGEEKS I am bringing a list. If I lose that list, I will probably disappear into a crack in space and time, never to be heard from again.)

At any rate, I’d like to see YA just go ape sh@t, you know? Books that are so completely unlike anything that’s currently on the shelves. Books that tackle the kinds of things that grown ups don’t want to talk about.

Books for boys. There, I said it.

There are boatloads of great YA novels geared toward girls but when it comes to boys, I think there needs to be more books that deal with their issues head on. My son is 22, he’s not a huge reader but when he was reading as a youth, his nose was stuck in a lot of history. Particularly military history. I have a theory that boys will read fantasy if the male protagonist resonates with them. Themes like heroism, sacrifice, honor are a good place to start but put those settings in something completely nontraditional. Also, actions and consequences – I think there’s a gold mine of books for teenage boys on actions and consequences just waiting to happen.

There are books right now that I think boys would love to read – Kim Curran’s forthcoming SHIFT looks like a winner. Zom-B by Darren Shan is another that looks fantastic.

But also, intimate topics – like getting dumped. Like falling in love and dealing with male hormones that are all about having sex as soon as humanly possible – and the ramifications of getting a girl pregnant. Teen pregnancy from the context of the teenage male father – CBC radio did a fantastic radio documentary about this very subject a few months back. It literally blew me away and if I can find the link, I’ll post it.

What do you think? Are there enough YA books being published to attract the teenage male reader? If not, why not and what would you like to see? As for me … I’ve already written something that I think boys would jump at. My agent has it – I need to do revisions before we start submitting. (So I’ll add that to my list of things to do, GAH!)

But I really want to explore this further and I have plans to write something geared toward teenage boys that deals with coming of age, honor and sacrifice. Right now it’s amazing idea laid out in a bullet point outline and my agent knows what it is.

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Do Boys read YA?

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I’m posing this question because as a guy who has his debut YA urban fantasy hitting bookstores in October, I have to admit that when I wrote POLTERGEEKS, I wasn’t thinking about who would be reading it.

You see, I’m not entirely convinced that boys read YA. While we can’t paint everyone with the same brush, I think that if boys are reading at all, it’s probably something else entirely or possibly something surprising. So the purpose of this posting isn’t for me to pronounce that “more boys need to read YA”. I suspect that some are. I suspect some publishers out there would kill for a commercial phenomenon that is attractive to teenage boys in the way that The Hunger Games or Twilight are a phenomenon fueled by massive numbers of teenage girls.

So, what do you think? Are boys reading YA? Aren’t they? If they aren’t, what are they reading or are they even reading at all.

And a final question: what do you think boys want to read. (I have a theory about what they’d like to read and it might raise a few eyebrows. That’s for a blog posting at a later date. First, I want to hear from you.)

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Writing Believable Magic

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I don’t like to toot my own horn very often because I’m far from being a perfect author. Anyone who has read my blog or who follows me on Twitter knows that I am, shall we say, romantically obtuse when it comes to laying on the oatmeal in a story.

Buuuut … I write really freaking good magic. I mean, really really good stuff that you can almost see when you close your eyes. There’s a lot of urban fantasy out there where the magic isn’t explained very well and where a sorceress, witch, wizard or what have you simply “throws a hex on them” or “I nailed him with a jolt of supernatural fury”.

For me, it’s about writing what a jolt of supernatural fury actually looks and feels like. What it does when it is unleashed. How it affects the target and also the person slinging the magic. But that’s not all – not my a long shot. For every kind of magic, there must be a system or rules otherwise nobody is going to buy it. Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden (who rocks, period) uses “will” as the fountain from which magic springs. That’s a really believable system and one of the things that Butcher does better than any other writer in urban fantasy today, is that he shows the cost of slinging the aforementioned magic.

In other words, Butcher kicks the living crap out of Harry Dresden in each of this Dresden Files books.

I’m not going to explain the magic system in POLTERGEEKS, but what I will say is that what I came up with is original. Spontaneous Human Combustion can occur and magic can be seen, touch, tasted, smelled and felt because it is a force so unlike anything our senses are used to experiencing.  How do I pull it off? Well, I close my eyes when I think about a scene and then I visualize what the magic looks like.

What color is it?

Is it moving?

Can it be shaped into something? Are there tendrils or wispy fingers of energy. How do they interact with the person slinging the magic but also something as simple  as perhaps an evening breeze. That’s what I’m talking about – magic is unreal because we can’t experience it so the writer really does need to show the living hell out of the magic as opposed to simply stating that a magical event occurred. I’ll also write down on a sheet of paper what physical form I might want to make a spell or a curse to take.

  • A column of pure energy that flows like ….
  • An inky black cloud of malice that stirred and bubbled across the gravel like …
  • I gathered the wispy tendrils of magical energy into a tight bind ….

I try to visualize magic as Silly Putty and I make shapes with it in my mind and I try to put it to paper.

So, there you have it. My secrets to writing believable magic and you know, as authors when we’re talking about the supernatural we’re asking the reader to suspend belief as they flip the pages of our books. The least we can do is to help them experience the closest possible match to what we authors are seeing in our mind’s eye. I think we owe readers that much.

Because there is a lot of badly written magic out there and hey, it’s magic so, you  know … we need to make it magical.

 

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Fun with the Canada Revenue Agency

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See that form? That’s a form I need to get stamped by the Canada Revenue Agency so that my literary agent can release funds to me for a book I wrote that comes out in October. I sent this form in to their office in Regina in March and the Canada Revenue Agency lost it.  I called them last week to check on why I hadn’t received it and they said they would have to do a search. The guy last week told me it would take 5-7 days to do the search. I called them today, a different person told me that it would take 30 days to process the search.

It gets better. (Worse, actually)

I asked the lady on the phone if there was anyone I could take new forms to locally to get them stamped. She put me into a queue for 30 minutes to something called “the next level”. A man answered and informed me that it would take 30 days to find the lost forms. I told him that I knew that and asked if I could go to the Saskatoon office of the Canada Revenue Agency to get them stamped. He then, and I shit you not, WENT TO THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY WEBSITE TO SEE IF IT COULD BE DONE AT THE SASKATOON OFFICE!!

Of course the website said it couldn’t be done. I knew this because, gasp, I was staring at the website at the same time! So I asked him where the closest Canada Revenue Agency Office might be where I could go in person to get a tax exemption form stamped. The guy on the phone told me “the closest CRA office where you could get it done would be Ottawa”. For those unaware, Ottawa is Canada’s national capital and it’s more than 2000 kilometers (1400 miles) from where I live.

All.

For.

A.

@#$%%

Stamp.

This is what we’re paying for in the way of the highest taxes in North America. This is Canada’s public service. Full wages and benefits and a pension plan and job security and …. nobody in my city is qualified to put a stamp on a piece of paper the UK Tax Office needs to prove that I am in fact, Canadian.

It’s this kind of crap that reinforces my steadfast believe that the entire civil service should be privatized. Thought everyone should know about this. They lost the forms, not me. I am trapped in a bureaucratic loop that is starting to feel very much like The Matrix.

 

#### UPDATE ####

Canada Revenue Agency called me back (odd because I did not give them my number) to inform me they found the missing forms and they were mailed today. Anyone want to figure that one out??? I did notice a slew of Government of Canada IP addresses visiting my website within an hour of this posting coming out and it appearing on Twitter.

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