Genre Bender

I discovered L.E. Waters earlier this week while looking for books about past lives. Her Infinite Sacrifice is free for the time being, and it is gorgeously written. If you like past lives and beautiful writing, it’s a definite recommendation. I’ll be buying its sequel, Infinite Devotion, next week once I have some time to sit down and read!

When I like an author’s work, I check out their blog, and L.E. Waters brought up an interesting question in this post about J.K. Rowling. Namely, how do you handle writing in multiple genres?

As someone who likes to dabble in different genres, this post really got me thinking. My work under SPB fits into comedy-horror and sci-fi. The zombie stories are the big sellers; the sci-fi…not so much. What I mean is I track the sales, and I’m not getting a lot of crossover traffic. I do have a handful of emails from people who have read either GNW or Echoes and ventured to the other based on enjoying that one, but for the most part they’re very different sets of readers.

So…I guess what I’m asking is, is a writer betraying her readers if she tries a new genre? Reading Waters’ initial post, I’m beginning to suspect some readers will feel some level of betrayal:

My heart sunk when I saw that it was a black comedy, reminding me of a plot for new tv series. I know she is a great writer, but I don’t want to read about this sort of world. I want to read her fantasy.

She goes on to say that she’ll be changing her writing plans, and will probably release a historical novel after the Infinite series to better please her readers.

I’m of the opinion that Rowling was up against a brick wall no matter what she chose to do. If she wrote another fantasy novel, it would be forever compared to Harry Potter. If she switched, she’d be questioned for trying something new. She could always write under a pen name…but then how do you transfer the force behind the Potter brand to the new book? Clearly, her publishers are hoping some of the Potter magic will transfer to the new book and spur gigantic sales figures. Writing under a pseudonym probably wasn’t even an option for her.

And really, should she have to? She devoted years of her life to Potter and that fandom. She’s well within her rights to try something new. Her fantasy fans don’t need to read the new stuff, but I bet a lot of them will check it out, just because hey, it’s Rowling! Frankly, I can’t blame her for trying something totally new. It’s like the whole Tarja vs. Anette situation with Nightwish: they weren’t able to duplicate the Tarja voice, so they went with its polar opposite. And it worked.

Rowling discussion aside, I completely understand where Waters is coming from. It’s probably a question most working writers must address: what kind of stories do I want to write? What will sell?

The folks who contact me most about my work are zombie fans, but while I love zombies, I don’t want to write about them exclusively until the end of time (or until December 21, whichever comes first). But at the same time I want to make a living, and Vibeke vs. The End of the World has been helping me pay the bills for almost a year.

So no, I don’t want to alienate anyone who may be into me just for the living dead. But I also want to try other things.

At the moment, my plan for the Blackmore pseudonym is to use it as my main genre handle. Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and its offshoots. The story I’m working on for NaNoWriMo looks like a sci-fi novel with a love story in it…is it a romance? Not quite. So if it’s ever published, it would be under the Blackmore name. But if I got the urge to write contemporary chicklit, then yes, I would publish it under another pseudonym.

But then I’d have to figure out how to handle the pseudonym. I’ve had some pretty good sales under Blackmore. The natural thing to do is say, “Hey, I’m writing under another name, check it out if you’re interested,” but doesn’t that kill the purpose of a secret moniker? Or is everything just an open secret on the Internet anyway?

Three Ways to Handle a New Pen Name

a) Create a new pseudonym. Tell no one. Hope the work stands on its own. (The Super-Secret Pseudonym.)

b) Create a new pseudonym. Announce it on your website and have a link to your second handle’s work. Casual readers may not know it at all; only your diehard fans who visit your site will be aware. (The Open Secret Pseudonym.)

c) Use some variant of your present name to keep the two handles connected. “Patrizia Blackmore,” for example, blazoned across Fabio’s chest on the cover of the new romantic novel. (The Lazy Man’s Pseudonym.)

Actually, I kind of like Patrizia…gives me an exotic flair I lack in real life.

Anyway, it’s an interesting situation to ponder, and many thanks to L.E. Waters, both for writing an outstanding book and providing fodder for my latest blog post!

Revolution & Tech

So, anyone else digging Revolution?

I’ve only seen the first episode, but generally I enjoyed it. It actually reminds me quite a bit of that S.M. Stirling series…I don’t remember the title, just the first book (Dies the Fire), where physics go wonky and nothing electrical works.

Revolution has its share of militias, warlords, and Folks With Agendas, plus the requisite post-apocalyptic landscape. Naturally I got a kick out of it, even if the lead is kind of dry.

One thing I’ve never quite understood is the sheer number of folks who think the world would be better off if we completely lost all of our technology. I watched Revolution with a couple of friends, both of whom started talking about How Awesome Things Would Be if our tech just stopped working.

Now, I’ll give them some credit and assume they were only thinking small: no need to face a morning commute or a growling boss, and we’d probably all be a lot fitter because we’d be hunter-gatherers. Yes, it’s fun to think about galloping down overgrown highways on a horse (I wouldn’t miss LA traffic) and how clear the air would be and how ~beautiful and natural~ the world would seem…except it would kind of suck.

Just off the top of my head – the basic necessities we’d lose: Microwaves, cars (no long-distance travel – and suddenly that five-mile jaunt to the grocery store is long distance), no way to get to work or anywhere else, severe curtailing of water heating/general temperature control…

No fun stuff: iPods, computers, televisions, radios, phones, Starbucks (NO, NOT STARBUCKS!), e-readers…

Important stuff: Access to medicine and medical professionals would be severely curtailed. If your meds need refrigeration…well, better hope you’ve got an icebox. How the hell is the average person supposed to track down family and friends when we’re all so spread out? Food will run out quick. Can you grow corn?

And so on and so forth.

I voiced some of my thoughts aloud and got a blank stare from one of them. “You are totally overthinking things, dude. We’d get bows and arrows and shit.”

“Wait,” I said. “Have you ever taken an archery class?”

There was a pause. “No.”

“So how are you going to learn?”

“On the go. You know, I’ll learn things. By hunting. And being in danger.”

I’m not sure it’s best to learn how to use a bow and arrow when the bear is charging you, but whatever works. I’m sure the ratio of people who figure it out successfully will be roughly equivalent to those who become proficient in firearms during the zombie apocalypse.

I’m toast.


Suz the Overbearing

You know that feeling you get when you sit up straight and your neck goes SKRRRRRRRRZTTT?

Yeah. That just happened.

Oops, I did it again.

I am relatively certain all my physical aches and pains are tied to my stress level, which I really try to keep under wraps. I slept until noon today in an effort to chase off this damned sore throat, and the strategy basically worked…but then the sounds of hammering woke me up and I had to go trolling for more gigs, which is always an unnerving experience. For example, today I had the opportunity to advertise my editing services to indie authors. Being an indie author myself, I understand their position, and I’m willing to work with them as far as pricing and, say, payment plans. The actual conversation probably went like this:

AUTHORS: Are there any affordable editors out there?

SUZ: I’m affordable. I’ve edited since 2006, here’s my qualifications, I want you to look good, here’s my email.

But this is how I imagine it went:

AUTHORS: Are there any affordable editors out there?


Coincidentally, that’s how I fear most of my attempts at book advertising read, too, although I think the Grave New World ones are turning out pretty well (as it turns out, it’s easier to market tongue-in-cheek zombie fare than far-out sci-fi books). It’s already doubled the sales for Echoes and it keeps going…I like to think I did a nice job on the blurb, but I suspect people just really like zombies. Especially cheap zombies. 🙂

Still no decision on what to do with poor Galen and his last name. I’m about to revamp the summary on Amazon in an effort to boost sales, so I wonder if it might not make sense to just change the last name and re-upload while I’m at it, just to spare myself the agony of wondering.

Yup. I do drama real well, don’t I?

Had way too much coffee to compensate for sleeping until noon, and as a result leaped through the roof when the UPS guy knocked on the door to drop off a client’s manuscript.

Blame Zombies

“Is Adult Fiction Too Childish?” the Huffington Post article asks, featuring a picture of a she-vamp biting a victim. I clicked on it, half-expecting some misguided soul claiming Twilight was grown-up lit.

Instead, William Adler puts on his literary snob hat and tries to understand the general proliferation of zombie/vampire/superhero nonsense, also called genre fiction. He does it all in a very nice way that suggests he doesn’t actually want to come off as a literary snob, and that he is genuinely baffled at the state of entertainment today. I don’t have a HuffPo account, so I responded here.

Full disclosure: I am a genre whore. I love sci-fi, fantasy, horror, zombies, dragons, the whole shebang. I didn’t like most of the classics when they were shoved down my throat in high school, and I don’t like most of them now (the lone exception being The Iliad, after I obtained a much better translation of it earlier this year). I’m pretty sure people like Adler look at me as a degenerate freak.

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Spiders and Birds

Juno is sitting on her food dish watching me work. “C’mere,” she says every couple of minutes. If she follows her usual pattern, she’ll get tired of waiting for me and climb down to the bottom of her cage to do her Let Me Out Dance…yup, there she goes. She’s running back and forth along the bottom squeaking “C’mere.”

It’s very cute, but there’s also a mild creepiness mixed in somewhere. She knows what c’mere means, and uses it in context. This is an extremely small brain we’re talking about, but it’s still cross-species communication. Well, maybe it’s more like her delivering orders, but it’s still one species saying to the other, “C’mere,” or “Hey bird,” which she also uses properly (as a greeting).

There was a book I read…I must have still been in school. I don’t remember the title, but it was “hard” scifi–the type that applies proper (for our time, anyway) scientific methods to stories. In it, when humans make first contact with aliens, it’s through…mathematics.

Yes. No “ET phone home” here. Just E=MC squared. Or something like that. I’m probably oversimplifying the actual exchange, but that’s all I recall of it.

Meanwhile, my bird knows exactly what she’s saying in English, and uses it to her advantage. Not that Juno is smarter than an alien, but…it’s almost the same kind of communication.

I am presently under siege by an enemy force. Yesterday I had a run-in with what I can only describe as a megabeast, a spider so huge it…well, it didn’t seem to be a spider.

My screen doors suck, and my landlord hasn’t gotten around to replacing them. Hence when I leave the windows open to get in some airflow, things come inside. The spider problem has been horrendous this summer.

I disposed of the spider and thought that was the end of it…but no. This morning while I was changing Juno’s food, I realized something in her dish was moving.

This other spider wasn’t as big as the previous one, but it was still too large for comfort. She’s singing happily atop her cage, so I don’t think she got bitten, but I am keeping an eye on her. 

Deep Thoughts

I was stitching together some back cover copy for the serial novel, which still has no name. Still working on the “intro” paragraph–the one that introduces the world and tells us what’s up.

However, I did come up with a more succinct tagline that encompasses the story and appeals to my snarky side:

Bad Parenting + Teenage Hormones + Senility = Civil War

Still no word on the Big Machine, aside from the fact that they are indeed sitting on it and I want it back, dammit.

I think today calls for Starbucks.

You Will Read a Post and Search the Web

Today I’d like to discuss a very important subject: The lack of fortunes in fortune cookies.

Does anyone remember when this trend started? I have very clear memories of obtaining actual fortunes from fortune cookies; you know, the ones clearly written by non-native speakers: “You meet dark stranger at end of long journey.”

We went to our favorite Chinese restaurant last night. Among our fortunes:

Magnanimity will bring you universal respect.

Little and often makes much.

Never despair, but if you do, work on in despair.

Love is the most valuable thing in life.

Lucky you. Get out your party clothes.

The last one was the closest thing to an actual fortune that any of us got, as it at least suggested my father would be putting on his party clothes (what are party clothes? This statement vaguely concerns me). The rest…what does “Little and often makes much” mean, anyway? Beyond the vague insinuation that Juno is little and poops often, thus creating a great deal of fecal matter.

I miss getting fortunes. There was something deeply exciting about “A long trip awaits you” or “Watch out for betrayal.” Hell, at this point I’d probably settle for “People think you’re an asshole.” It beats Work on in despair.

Work on in despair? Really? That was the motto at my last office job.

I’ve developed a remedy for this. I’m going to write sassy fortunes and put them on CafePress.

Yes. If I can’t get my fortunes from fortune cookies, I can get them from coffee mugs.

That’s actually not the extent of my business plan, but it is the gist of it. I was going to call it Misfortunes, but I think someone’s already beaten me to it. I think I might just call it…suzisms.

Steven Seagal and the Quest for Immortality

Steven Seagal wants to be immortal, and he wants Vladimir Putin to help him accomplish this.

Why am I not surprised?

Once upon a time, Steven Seagal was a bankable action star. He had a blockbuster film in Under Siege, in which he ran around on the USS Missouri. Almost two decades after its release, Steven has become…well, he’s gotten more interesting.

It seems like every few years, he does something odd and winds up back in the spotlight. There was that big, public conversion to Buddhism. He started wearing silk jackets likely stolen from the Memoirs of a Geisha wardrobe. He embarked on a singing career. He’d finally slipped entirely from my mind when Steven Seagal: Lawman showed up on cable.

How do you top that?

Why, live forever!

I guess that’s the logical next step. I can see Seagal’s train of thought clearly on this. “You know, that Jack Sparrow has got a point! I should figure out how to live forever. Who’s going to help me out on this? Hey…I bet the Russians are all over this stuff.” Initially, I was surprised he didn’t go to Germany with this; according to the recent flood of recent Nazi movies and documentaries, the Third Reich was all over stuff like immortality and the occult. Then I remembered the Nazis had probably taken their immortality-attaining secrets with them to the moon; if we’re lucky, they’ll bring it back when they invade us with what’s left of Palpatine’s Imperial Navy.

Okay, the Germans are out. Who else is ballsy enough to publically pursue immortality, to hell with what the rest of the world thinks? Hey, how about those guys who killed a dude with radioactivity? Of course! The Russians!

In his letter to Vladimir, Seagal remarks that he considers himself Russian. Seagal himself is from Lansing, Michigan.

Sure, I guess I see the similarity there.

There’s only one real way to solve this. We’ll drop Sarah Palin off in the middle of town and see if she gets confused.

The Self-Pub Stigma

My uncle and brother were in town on Friday, and we got to talking about self-publishing. We particularly discussed putting together a volume of short stories just to test the waters, and see what happens.

I admit the thought has crossed my mind before, particularly with the success of those publishing to the Kindle/Nook formats. I almost feel odd going about it without at least trying the traditional route — I guess it feels like cheating? — and the backlash you see from published authors and the like.

With that said, I have two projects I’m seriously considering self-pubbing through Smashwords & Kindle, just to see what happens.

The first is an old zombie story I’m currently in the process of revising. I quite like the story, but it might be a little too weird to ever really pitch to any houses — I could see myself maybe trying Permuted Press with it, but that’s about it. That’s the project I’ve had in mind all along for self-pubbing, anyway. The process is free. I’ll probably hire an editor pal to give it a once-over, get the thing uploaded, and see what happens.

The other project is a non-fiction one. It’s only conceptual at the moment; something about online dating and the expectations we have. I started out intending to pitch something to one of the big magazines, but then realized the project was bigger. I might still chop it up into an article to pitch it, but right now I’m thinking of compiling my 2011 efforts into a sort of chronicle of online dating. Not a how-to guide, but maybe just “This is what I did; your mileage may vary.”

I’m exhausted. Better blogging tomorrow, I promise.

Rejections vs. Silence

Lately I’ve been trying to decide which I like better: The form rejection letter or the non-response.

The non-response, at least, lets me wonder if perhaps it slipped into a spam folder, or was otherwise gobbled up by the Internet. A ballsier person than myself might even send a follow-up, politely asking if my sparkling resume had been received (this follow-up would probably also plummet into the long Internet abyss of “what if”). Logically, they did see it, and decided my skillz weren’t even worth the five seconds it sends to paste in a form rejection. Which, on paper, is more offensive than the actual form rejection itself.

The problem with a form rejection is that it is a rejection. Non-responses still allow you the dignity of fantasizing: “They’d hire me if they saw it.” (Yeah, and maybe that cute guy will call you tomorrow.)

Form rejections say, “Nope, you ain’t for us.” This is akin to the “I don’t think we’re a good match” speech.

In case I’m not being transparent enough, I woke up to a nice little rejection in my inbox. It was for a content mill — just me trying to throw more eggs in the basket — and I appreciate them taking the time to reject me. Still, I kind of like what-ifs.

In the meantime, my Internet is acting up, I have an obnoxious recruiter text messaging me (is this my reward for posting on LinkedIn? Awesome), and I have to ask my doctor for generic acne medication.

In case anyone’s wondering, the going rate for clear skin these days is $410, without insurance.

Still, waking up without oozing pustules is priceless.