The Romance Genre Part 2

I started writing a review of Finding Eden, a young adult, urban fantasy romance. Then I realized it made more sense to first talk about young adult romances since they are a sub-genre of the romance genre, and to review Finding Eden after the sub-genre has been defined. So here’s my take on young adult romances.

First of all, you must understand that they are only partly aimed at high school kids. Yes, those kids read them, and they read them in droves. But adults read them too. I read them, though not often. But I know there are whole online chat groups of adults who read young adult romance. I suspect I know why.

Young adult romances never involve sex unless or until the couple are married as in The Hunger Games and The Twilight series. Furthermore they are about young people with their lives ahead of them, which is equally appealing. Put those two things together and you have coming-of-age stories written around a romantic theme without gratuitous sex.

But there’s more. The Young Adult sub-genre includes other sub-genres. Urban Fantasy is a big one. Small Town is another. Just about any other sub-genre of romance can be paired with Young Adult and that means a whole lot of people will read in that genre. Enough that there’s now another sub-genre of romance that’s an extension of the Young Adult sub-genre. It’s called New Adult. More about that another time, for now, it’s enough to know that romances about high school kids aren’t just for high school kids. They are for everyone.

The Romance Genre Part 1

Romance is the best-selling genre out there. And the largest. And the hardest to define. Wikipedia has a short, simple, to-the-point definition of romance.  According to wiki, Romance emphasizes love over libido. I’ll go with that because it’s a definition that answers a question I’ve had for quite some time about the romance genre.

I wondered how erotica can be considered romance when the entire book consists of one sexual encounter after another and very little else. I used to think it was porn disguised as romance. I now know that it is a romance as long as the emphasis is on love, not libido.

When I read that definition of romance I remembered reading an interview with a writer of erotica who is also a professor of literature at a prestigious university, a respected writer of literary fiction, and the child of famous, literary authors. When asked why she writes erotica she said she did it because she enjoys it. She enjoys erotica. That made me think. I eventually realized that erotica, like car chases, appeals to some people and not to others and if the emphasis is on the romance, then it’s a romance.

I realized that some people enjoy reading detailed descriptions of human plumbing. I don’t. But, if it fits the story, I find the details of plumbing in a space ship quite interesting. Remember the first Star Wars movie where the main characters almost drowned in garbage? That was a wonderful scene, it was plumbing though not of the human kind. And the Star Wars series qualified as romance.

The romance genre contains a lot of sub-genres, as any best-selling genre must, of necessity, in order to accommodate every reader’s taste And the only thing that’s essential is that the emphasis be on love, not libido.

Space Junque by L K Rigel

Space Junque (Apocalypto, #1)

Review:  Space Junque by L K Rigel

I liked this book enough to read it straight through. Though the book is complete in itself, (a wonderful and somewhat rare thing in a series), if you want to truly know what happens later, you must read the sequel. A generous portion of the next book is included at the back and I liked that but I’m  not sure I’ll go looking for the sequel though I will read it if I happen to come across it.

It’s the dystopian sci-fi story of the end of the world as we know it and of the few people who can start anew because they were on one of several space stations when the end came. The plot is a bit more complicated than I prefer but I like straight-as-an-arrow plots that go in a predictable manner from beginning to end. This book’s complex route took a couple twists and turns that I believe would have come off better if they’d been foreshadowed.  If there’s anything truly negative about Space Junque, that lack of foreshadowing when the plot suddenly makes a 190 degree turn is it.

But I liked the story. I like end-of-the-world stories as long as there’s a new future in sight and there is in this book. And I liked the characters, all of whom were the right people in the right place at the right time to do what needed to be done. And I loved that the sex, of which there was a fair amount, was done right. I got the feel for the emotions of the characters without being overwhelmed with details.

So it was a good story and I’m glad I read it. And maybe I will read the next in the series after all. I want to now what new world they can create.

The Science Fiction Genre Part 4

More about world building in the science fiction, fantasy and paranormal genres. Yesterday I wrote about world building for my wip, Earth Legend. I described a world similar in appearance to Earth but functioning differently. Such a world was needed for Earth Legend but it’s not what most novelists think of when they hear the words ‘world building.’

They think really, really weird planets that we humans would never recognize and shouldn’t be able to survive on. Or they need ghosts, goblins, etc to advance their story line so they invent them. I needed an Earth-like space ship. I invented one.

The trick, as any science fiction writer worth his/her credentials will tell you, is to make those strange story elements believable. And that’s where world building comes in.

Writers must create, in their own minds, the entire world inhabited by those strange creatures, or the world itself. So everything in the story hangs together. So some jarring element doesn’t take the reader out of the story.

Then they must ignore that world because the bottom line is that they are telling a story, not describing a world. That’s hard to do because writing is what writers do. What they must do.

Except in the case of world-building.



Last post, I said I was ready to start marketing Wolf Legend, my next contemporary romance novel with a supernatural theme.  Maybe the truth should be that I’m almost ready to start marketing Wolf Legend.

I’ve still got to do one more run-through for editing, typos, etc.  Most of all, I must justify the margins. When I first started e-publishing, I tried writing first drafts with justified margins so I wouldn’t have to go back and do it later.  It didn’t work. It drove me crazy.  All those letters jumping all over the place whenever I made a change.  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, try it.  You’ll go blind very quickly.  Or insane.  Or both.)  And I changed at least a few things in every chapter.  Even if I was on rewrite number ten.

So I quit creating with justified margins and must go back and redo the entire book now that I’m finally, finally truly done with it. Actually I justified it twice already and then un-justified it so I could make changes without going blind.  But this time I’m sure I’m done.

Really sure.

Pretty sure.

Almost sure…

Okay, I’m a writer and that means I’m never done.  I just reach a point in the creative process where I send it off whether I’m satisfied or not.  My husband often threatens to tear my latest manuscript from my clutching, ink-stained fingers because that’s the only way it’ll ever go out into the world.

The Romance Genre… Or Not

I’m finally… finally… finally… ready to start marketing the second book of my Legend trilogy, Wolf Legend, about a psychic wolf.  Actually two psychic wolves, mother and daughter and the woman they share a mind link with.

Marketing requires that I choose a category for my book.  I hate doing that.  Hate, hate, hate it!!!

Wolf Legend is a supernatural, contemporary, clean romance.  Though a supernatural element is fairly common in contemporary fiction, clean romances don’t often have that theme.  So maybe Wolf Legend shouldn’t be marketed as a supernatural, contemporary, clean romance after all.  Maybe it’s contemporary fiction with a supernatural theme and a romantic sub-plot!  Since readers ultimately categorize books, it’s difficult to know ahead of time where they will place it.

I wish I had a mind link with my readers!

Runaway Heart by Claudy Conn

Runaway Heart

Review:  Runaway Heart by Claudy Conn

A couple of weeks ago, I headed to Fargo with my husband for his doctor’s appointment.  We knew he’d be needing an operation. So, with all the optimist in me,just in case they decided to operate that day, I downloaded a couple books to my Kindle to read.  Since I didn’t have the time to choose wisely, I only perused the free romances, figuring that if it turned not to be worth reading, I wouldn’t have wasted any money on them.  The doctor thought we were insane to expect him to operate immediately if it wasn’t an emergency, so we came back home and I forgot about the books until the next time I wanted something to read.

Runaway Heart was one of those books.  It was the one I chose to read first.

If you like Regency romances, you’ll like this book.  I like them occasionally so I enjoyed it.  If you like most romances but don’t particularly care for the Regency genre, then I suggest that you skip this read,  Regencies are filled with the words, idioms, habaits and stuff of that period.  The author (or authors, because two authors are mentioned though only one is on the cover) have done their homework and know the period intimately.  So, as we watch heroine, Chelsea, be rescued from the school where she’d been languishing and given a season in London during which she will hopefully make a good match, we also learn a lot about London in the Regency era and meet several people whom history has made famous.  Or infamous.  Until she, of course, wins the heart of the most eligible bachelor of all.

Chelsea is a Regency feminist.  She rescues animals and people from bad situations without thinking and in spite of any danger to herself.   So I found myself cheering her on and didn’t really care whether she ever got married or not.  But, of course, a happily-ever-after ending is always good.  The book was well edited and the grammar was good, nothing to complain about there.

Tonight I’ll read the other free book I downloaded and didn’t read in the hospital.  When he does have an operation, I plan to be proactive and find time to carefully peruse selections and choose according to  potential readability instead of cost.  Still, I’m glad I downloaded this book, even if it was on impulse.

The Literary Genre Part 3

More thoughts on the literary genre, mainly who reads this genre and why.

The answer, as I believe I’ve seen from talking to people who love it, is (drum roll, please) readers who want to insert their own ideas into the story, figure out their own endings, and interpret whatever happens in their own way.

The reason I say this is because I hear over and over again from readers of literary fiction how much they hate it when the writer hits them over the head with the meaning… the story line… the ending… the character descriptions… whatever it is they wished had been handled more subtly.  Or, to look at it another way, they want to read the story the way they’d have written it if they’d been the author.

I suspect that for many readers, literary stories work in much the same way as those stories with multiple endings.  The kind where you read so far then decide what ending you want and it pops up just the way you wanted it.  Ten people could have ten different endings.  I suspect that lovers of literary fiction want to be able to see the whole story their way, not just the ending and they couldn’t do so if the writer was too specific.

This is no more than a personal belief of mine based on observations of reader friends over the years but I’ve come to truly believe that they read literary fiction because it allows them to fill in so many blanks in a story that is all allusions and generalities that when they are finished they have read whatever story they were looking for.

Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but I do wish them good reading.

The Literary Genre Part 2

When I taught first grade, a family of refugees straight from the jungles of Laos came to our town and our school.  We teachers who would have a student from this family were given a crash course in south-east Asian culture so we’d be better able to deal with any every-day situations that might arise.  Thus I learned that in south-east Asia, the worst insult one person can give another is to touch them on the top of the head.  It’s like giving someone the finger in the US.  Or throwing a shoe at them in the Middle East.

After this crash course, we met the family.  The father was the only one who could speak English.  He said he was watching American TV and reading American literature as a way to learn our culture.  As he said this, a memory popped into my mind of a literary story I’d read recently.

An abbreviated version of the story is this:  A young boy spends the summer with his grandparents.  He and his grandfather don’t get along except when fishing in the creek that runs through the grandparents’ property, trying for the legendary trout that lives there.  At the end of the summer, as the boy’s parents come to pick him up, the boy hooks the trout, puts up a heroic battle that seems to last forever… and loses it.  As the grandfather and the boy pack up their gear and head to the house, the grandfather removes the boy’s cap and pats him on his head.  And that’s the end of the story.

I know what the author intended the reader to understand.  I know the point he was trying to make with the story. That the grandfather loved the boy unconditionally whether he caught the trout or not.  But if that father from south-east Asia read that story, given the meaning his culture gives to a pat on the head, I’m not so sure he got the writer’s meaning.  In fact, he might well have gotten the exact opposite message.

So the fact that literary fiction does not tell a story directly may be why it doesn’t pay as well as commercial fiction.  Because the readership is limited to those readers who share the same culture as the writer.  Who understand the writer’s innuendos, segues, descriptions and other devices he uses to tell a story indirectly.  Unfortunately, that’s a much smaller pool of potential readers than commercial fiction requires to be  financially successful.

Though, with the advent of e-publishing, there are enough potential readers of similar backgrounds out there for any literary writer to publish electronically and see what happens.  It just might work!

The Literary Genre, Part 1

For a long time I thought there was a war between people who write literary fiction and those who write for the commercial market.  I’ve grown past that childish belief but I belong to a literary writers’ group so I’m sensitive to the differences between the two and have given that difference a lot of thought.  This post is the beginning of an explanation of those differences as I see them.

The difference is all about the reader.  But it isn’t what you might think.

A friend who writes in the literary genre once defined the act of writing literary fiction as ‘writing around the story’.  There is a story in what may appear to be nothing more than pages of description in which nothing happens.  But there is a story!  There is!  But, since it’s not clearly laid out, the reader must find the story for him or herself.

That’s where things get wonky.  Literary writers tell stories through references, allusions, indirect descriptions and anything else they can think of that will nudge the reader towards the actual story without directly telling the reader much of anything.

Think about it.  Literary writers carefully choose words that they hope will give the reader the same mental pictures that are in the writer’s head.  They hope the reader will then form those same mental pictures and make an intuitive leap into the story the writer is actually writing.

Problem is, every writer’s arsenal of words is limited to words from their own world.  Their own background. Those words work fine for readers from a similar background.  From their world.

But readers from a different background might interpret those references, allusions and indirect descriptions … those words they chose so carefully … in a different way.  And end up reading a completely different story.

Think about this as you go about your day.  In my next post, I’ll illustrate what I’m talking about with a concrete example that happened about the time I joined that literary group and began wrestling with the difference between the literary and commercial genres.