Monday, August 31, 2015

How do you write humor? (And other questions I suck at answering)

When you're an author of risque romantic comedy, people like to ask you the secret to writing humor. I actually kinda wish they'd ask more about the "risque romantic" part of the equation, because I could totally nail a question on how to get your rocks off.

(Incidentally, did you guys see the video my husband and I did when we launched Protector for Hire? In case you didn't, here's how to get frisky in the forest):

But back to the original question about writing humor. I fumble a bit when I'm asked how to do it because it's not something I feel qualified to instruct someone in executing. While I'm comfortable teaching workshops on social media strategies for authors or how to remove your bra through your sleeve, I'm not sure I can tell anyone how to be funny.

What I can tell you is that I once waxed off my own eyebrow by mistake and then tried to draw it back in with eyeliner. I didn't realize until I got to work that I'd used green eyeliner.

I also went to a fancy luncheon once and spit gristle into my napkin, then forgot I'd done it and dropped the gristle into the designer handbag of the woman seated next to me. I got caught trying to fish it out, which was only slightly less embarrassing than the time I attended a different fancy luncheon and shoved a heaping spoonful of butter in my mouth because I thought it was whipped cream.

Are you sensing a pattern here?

Because the fact that I'm a magnet for absurdity is really the only thing I can point to as the secret to writing believable comedy.

The handy thing is that I can mine from my own life when it comes to writing my novels. There's a scene in my newesest romantic comedy, About that Fling, in which the hero and heroine attempt to have a private conversation in a video booth at an adult arcade. While I'm not saying real life unfolded quite that way for me, there's a reason I knew how things were likely to play out in their situation.

There's another scene involving a discussion about toilet paper, an incident that came straight from my husband's life (which I suppose you could take as a lesson that it's smart to marry someone who is also a magnet for ridiculousness, but I digress).

Reviewers for  About that Fling have also been zeroing in on the more serious undertones in my story. In their a starred review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted:

"There’s something wonderfully relaxing about being immersed in a story filled with over-the-top characters in undeniably relatable situations. Heartache and humor go hand in hand in this laugh-out-loud story with an ending that requires a few tissues." 

While the humor is undeniably mine, I'll admit the heartache is, too. Those of you who've followed this blog since its inception in February 2010 know how I cycled from happily married to unexpectedly divorced to dating again and eventual remarriage. Pieces of that experience make up the core of this book, and it's not all giggles and gropes. Sometimes, happily-ever-after doesn't happen the way you hoped it would, and there's a lot of funny, heart-wrenching stuff you'll encounter in your journey to get there.

So I'm not sure that answers the original question about humor, but it does fill up a whole blog post, so there's that.

If you haven't nabbed About that Fling yet, you can find eBooks, paperbacks, and even audiobooks here. In the four weeks the book has been part of the Kindle First program, I've been elated to see it peak as high as #2 on Amazon's "Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store" list, and anyone neurotically watching the stats (er, just me) would have noticed it's stayed pretty consistently in the top 10 or top 20 with one small dip to #22.

Considering the best ranking I'd previously had for any of my books was around #130, that's kinda impressive.

So go out there and grab the book. Then shove a spoonful of butter in your mouth and wax off your eyebrow. It'll make you funny, I swear.

Monday, August 3, 2015

So this happened...

For months, I've been dying to tell you guys my secret.

No, it has nothing to do with what's in the drawer of my nightstand (please...that's no secret).

My secret had to do with About that Fling, my romantic comedy slated for publication September 1 with Montlake Romance. The folks at Publishers Weekly got their hands on an early copy a couple months ago, and gave it a starred review, writing:

"There’s something wonderfully relaxing about being immersed in a story filled with over-the-top characters in undeniably relatable situations. Heartache and humor go hand in hand in this laugh-out-loud story with an ending that requires a few tissues." 

But that's not the secret.

The secret isn't actually a secret now, or at least it hasn't been since Saturday, August 1. That's when the book was released through the Kindle First program. What's Kindle First?

(Hey, it's okay to ask . . . I'll admit I had no idea until my agent started talking to me about it last summer).

In a nutshell, Amazon chooses 4-6 books per month to be Kindle First picks. One month before these books' scheduled release date, they advertise them as Kindle First selections and readers are allowed to choose one of the Kindle First books to purchase for $1.99. Amazon Prime members can choose one for free. At the end of the one-month promo, the books go up for sale at full price, but by then they've already got gobs of reviews and a 30-day track record of sitting on the Amazon bestseller list.

I probably don't have to tell you why this program was described to me three months ago as "life-changing for an author."

Or maybe I do. Here, let me show you a couple things from the last two days.

This is what I saw when I checked my Amazon ranking within a few hours of the book going live through Kindle First:

For those who don't check my Amazon rank as neurotically as I do (er, everyone) that's the first time in my whole career I've even cracked the "Top 100 paid in Kindle store" list. Two days later, I'm still sitting there in the #4 slot.

Not only that, but here's what I saw when I pulled up Amazon's list of the top 10 bestselling romance authors:

You might have to click the image to get a good look at it, but HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS, that's me in the #1 slot on a list that includes romance legends like Nora Roberts and Diana Gabaldon.

So, yeah. To say I'm over-the-moon about this Kindle First thing would be an understatement akin to suggesting I'm mildly fond of my husband's butt.

But aside from the reviews and the rankings and the book sales, there's something else at play here. I know I'm not supposed to admit this as an author, but no book I've published to date has as much meaning to me as About that Fling. For eons I've heard authors talk about "the book of my heart," and I always did a silent eye-roll and wrote it off as sentimental tripe.

Then I wrote this book.

Or more accurately, I wrote this book from the ashes of divorce and remarriage and all the heartbreaking, hilarious, heartwarming things that come from that process.

Those of you who've been following my books for a while will recognize my trademark humor in the pages of About that Fling, but you'll see a little something different, too. This book has some meat to it, and I'm not talking about the hero's beef bayonet or the heroine's fondness for riding the baloney pony. While there's sex in this book, it's much more understated than you'll find in my books for Entangled Publishing. And while there's humor in this book, it's a bit more sophisticated than what you've read in Making Waves or Believe it or Not or Frisky Business.

Here's what one Amazon reviewer wrote:

What I love most about Tawna Fenske's writing style is the waggish repartee that infuses the dialogue and descriptions. Though previously never have heard of her publications, I'd now read any genre written by Fenske. I delight in such fun back-and-forth and lopsided grinning word play, comparable to how WEST WING's snappy wit paired with emotional investiture made it a personal TV Series favorite. The sparkling humor, rolling passion, and risqué innuendo are not mere pinpoints in dross wording, however; the entire novel exhibits a warmness, a fluid narrative characteristic of a seasoned writer who goes beyond the subject matter and crafts her very presentation. Nor are the characters simple simpering fools. They are smart, suave, and, yes, outlandish, yet remaining very human at the core. And prepare for an ending that made even me get a bit of a burning around the edges of my eyes. Albeit hardly a regular Romance reader, I have certainly become a fan of Fenske, and enormously glad I decided on ABOUT THAT FLING for this month's Kindle First choice.

So if you haven't already grabbed it, now's a good time to get your hands on About that Fling from Amazon. But if you'd prefer to wait for the paperback or the audiobook, or if you'd just prefer to pay full price in September, you can do that, too.

Thanks for reading, guys! Now for a look in that nightstand drawer...