Christine Haggerty on the Dragon Tempest blog tour

The Dragon Tempest

Christine Haggerty is my guest today on the Dragon Tempest blog tour. You can read an excerpt from her prize-winning story The End of Everything here. She very obligingly wrote a short article about one aspect of fantasy writing. Here is her take on urban fantasy as a subdivision of fantasy.

Placing Urban Fantasy

Last summer, I sat on my first panel at Salt Lake’s first FantasyCon. The topic, prompted by a last-minute mediator, was whether or not ‘urban’ fantasy was still fantasy, and if so, where ‘urban’ fantasy fit in the genre.

Before Amazon divided genres into little pieces, urban fantasy fit easily under the more general category of fantasy. It involves magic and creatures and typical fantasy genre tropes. By definition, urban fantasy most particularly uses the simplicity of a familiar modern setting rather than the grand world-building required in epic fantasy. Think City of Bones vs. Wheel of Time.

The greatest advantage of urban fantasy is that it functions as a sort of entry-level fantasy genre. I teach high school language arts and work with students at varying levels of reading interest and ability. If I hand a kid a hard copy of Sanderson’s Words of Radiance and ask him for a report, the kid figures he’s done his weightlifting for the day and never even cracks the book. There’s nothing familiar on which to build an understanding of the elements of fantasy. However, if I hand a kid a copy of Fablehaven, he has the familiar setting of this current time and place on which to build a beginner’s understanding of magic and magical creatures.

The advantages of urban fantasy are:
1. World-building is easier to construct for both the writer and the reader because most of the contextual elements are modern and familiar.
2. Magic has a physical basis in the real world, and the reader can see how the magic system affects familiar, everyday objects.
3. Magical creatures are set side by side with human characters who have the same world-references and history as the reader.
4. Readers with limited imaginations can more easily insert themselves into the story because the new elements are mixed with familiar elements.

Urban fantasy, epic fantasy—regardless of genre, we writers have one primary goal: entertain our readers.

Christine Haggerty

Christine Nielson Haggerty grew up in rural Utah with three brothers, a sister, several chickens, a goat, and an outhouse. She always loved the escape of fantasy and the art of writing, and her passion for life is to craft stories of strength and survival.

As a former high school language arts teacher and a black belt in karate, Christine has found a niche in combining those skills to help authors write effective fight scenes.

An award-winning young adult author, she is now launching her dark fantasy fairytale novella series The Grimm Chronicles.

You can visit Christine’s blog here:
http://www.christinehaggerty.com

and catch up with her here:
http://www.amazon.com/Christine-Haggerty/e/B00H1YLN4A/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1386542302&sr=8-1
https://www.facebook.com/ChristineHaggertyAuthor
@chaggerty99

Christine has several books available:

The Grimm Chronicles: Pretty Things
The Grimm Chronicles: One, Two, Blood on my Shoe
The Plague Legacy: Acquisitions
The Plague Legacy: Assets
Standard Issue

which you can find by visiting her Amazon page.
http://www.amazon.com/Christine-Haggerty/e/B00H1YLN4A/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1386542302&sr=8-1

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Meet Kay Kauffman

I’m kicking off the week with a post from Kay Kauffman, another author with a strong line in extending a helping hand to fellow indie authors. There are so many of you it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling and a whole sackful of other clichés just thinking about it 🙂 Take it away, Kay!

wpavi

Worth the Challenge

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Writing poems can be hard,
E’en when you know what to do.

But I wouldn’t have it
Any other way.
The challenge is what makes it
Worth doing at the end of the day.

The challenge is where
All the fun lies,
No matter how many times while
I’m writing I say otherwise.

After all, if one does not struggle,
One cannot grow,
A lesson I’ve learned often,
Much to my woe.

But practice makes perfect,
And so I will try
To improve my poor verses
Till the day that I die.

And look at that –
What do you know?
I’ve created a poem about poetry,
And it’s not a total fiasco!

As a girl, Kay dreamed of being swept off her feet by her one true love. At the age of 24, it finally happened…and he’s never let her forget it. A mild-mannered secretary by day and a determined word-wrangler by night, she battles the twin evils of distraction and procrastination in order to write fantastical tales of wuv…twue wuv…with a few haiku thrown in for good measure.

TD-Ecover

The author of Tuesday Daydreams: A Journal in Verse and A Song for All Seasons: A Journal in Verse, Kay is currently hard at work on the first book in a fantasy trilogy. She resides in the midst of an Iowa corn field with her devoted husband and his mighty red pen; four crazy, cute kids; and an assortment of adorably small, furry animals.
Tuesday Daydreams captures the life and imagination of the author in vivid detail, touching on joy and loss, life’s everyday hassles, and the many faces of Mother Nature. A Song for All Seasons paints vivid pictures of the Iowa landscape in all its glory, in addition to intimate portraits of family life. From frost-covered windowpanes and snowy vistas to rolling green fields and bright blue skies, each poem is a peek into a fading world of untamed beauty.

ASFAS-Ecover

If you’d like to pick up your own copy of Tuesday Daydreams or A Song for All Seasons, you can find them at Amazon, Amazon UK, Createspace, Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.
Care to save her from the chaos? You can find Kay in the all the usual places:
At her blog, where she shares random pictures and silly poems; on Facebook, where she shares things about cats and books; on Twitter, where she shares whatever pops into her head; on Pinterest, where she shares delicious recipes and images from her fantasy world; on Instagram, where she shares pictures of pretty sunsets; and on Tumblr, where she shares all of the above.

I thoroughly recommend a visit to Kay’s blog—it’s full of interesting things. Especially if you like books. And cats 🙂
Since Kay was too modest to post her Amazon links I’ll do it for her
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Grá mo Chroí : Cover reveal

Unless you’ve been living under a stone for the last few weeks, you will have heard that Ali Isaac and myself have got together a collection of our retellings of some of the great love stories from among the Irish myths. This is the official cover reveal for Grá mo Chroí. Second really because I see Ali was up sometime before dawn in her excitement to blog about it. ☺

GMC13

It might seem no big deal to those of you with blockbuster epics under your belt, but we have gone back in time, to the golden age of Irish storytelling, and we have added our own small contribution to the great tradition.
Susan Toy, blogger, writer, and very perspicacious asked, why did we decide to do this? Good question. Why did two writers who have never even met decide to produce a collection of stories that, let’s face it, have already been told many times?
The easy part of the answer is that if your roots lie in Ireland, you will know that the myths and stories you were brought up with are at least as true as the Magna Carta and the Wars of the Roses. We are dealing with real people who have landmarks named after them and local legends associated with them.
Both Ali and I are familiar with some of the versions of these stories and have had great fun researching some of the versions we didn’t know. Because unlike the Wars of the Roses, for which there is a fine, blow by blow account, the Irish stories have had so many interpretations that some have been tempted to doubt they happened at all, incredible as that may seem!
The Christian monks wrote down the first versions. Their ecclesiastical superiors disapproved and made them do it again with saints instead of sinners. Fiery Brigid becomes a nun, and Saint Patrick sticks his oar in wherever it’s humanly possible.
But if you dig deep enough, dump the Christian misogynist overtones, you get some beautiful stories, full of real people with real, modern emotions. Irish love stories are not soppy and they are rarely about rescuing damsels in distress. There is almost always blood shed, wars waged, and the damsel is as likely to be waving a sword about as she is to be cowering behind the battlements.
For a writer who loves the poetry in words, these retellings are pure self-indulgence. For a reader who enjoys reading a bit of prose mixed in with their poetry, these stories are for you. Our gift to you for Valentine’s Day, especially for those with a drop of Irish blood in their veins, hoping to rekindle a dormant passion.

Although Grá mo Chroí isn’t released until February 11th you can pre-order a copy at
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Promote Yourself: Tim Baker

My last guest in this second season of author guest posts is Tim Baker. As you can see from his author pic, he looks uncannily like his Twitter avatar 🙂

dj tim (2)

Originally from Warwick, Rhode Island, Tim Baker enjoyed a 25 year career in Architecture and Engineering, followed by short stints in the natural gas industry, construction and ice cream sales before moving to Florida in 2006.

An avid dog lover, Tim was a volunteer puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, raising and socializing potential guide dogs. Tim has studied and taught martial arts, and he is also a certified SCUBA diver.

In addition to writing Tim is also a disc jockey on WQFB – 97.3 FM “The Surf” – www.flaglerbeachradio.com

Being a native New Englander he is a lifetime member of Red Sox Nation.

Inspired by his interest in Karma and the unexplained forces of the universe, he made his first serious attempt at writing in 1988 when he began writing a novel entitled Full Circle, a story about the far reaching effects one man’s actions can have on people he has never even met. Unfortunately without the use of a computer or even a typewriter he shelved the project due to the difficulties of trying to construct a novel completely by hand.

In early 2007 a bizarre dream inspired his first novel, appropriately called Living the Dream, and he has been cranking out books non-stop ever since. Tim writes fast-paced, off-beat crime stories set in Flagler Beach and St. Augustine, full of colorful characters and loaded with unexpected and often humorous twists and turns. He has also co-written two zombie novellas and written a few short stories for horror anthologies.

Currently, Tim is enjoying life in Palm Coast, Florida.

Here is the synopsis of Tim’s latest book, Eyewitness Blues

Martin Aquino has been dealt a rotten hand in life—from the bottom of a stacked deck.

In a flash of inspiration Martin decides the witness protection program is exactly what he needs if he’s ever going to have a quiet, normal life.

Martin didn’t exactly witness the murder, but he knows who pulled the trigger – so reporting it to the law and using it as his ticket into the program isn’t wrong.

Is it?

Unfortunately, when mob boss Don Gammino learns that his right-hand man has been named as a murder suspect he decides to teach Martin a new tune.

A chance for escape comes to him from an unexpected source, and he takes it—all the way to Flagler Beach, Florida where he gets his first taste in years of the life he’s been longing for. However, in keeping with is life in Rhode Island, his new life isn’t without its complications.

Now his only protection from Gammino and his goon squad is in the form of a wheelchair-bound bookie and an ex-Navy SEAL, named Ike, with a penchant for bending the rules.

Martin’s in a tropical paradise surrounded by people but he still feels alone in the world.

Life isn’t easy when you have the Eyewitness Blues.

Eyewitness Blues final cover

Eyewitness Blues

Chapter One

Martin wasn’t asking for his life to be a fun-filled ride down a waterslide…he just didn’t want to feel like it was being flushed down a toilet every day. Even on those rare occasions when he seemed to catch a lucky break it wasn’t really luck, it was more like getting plucked from the toilet and dropped directly into the cesspool.

How else could you describe his current situation?

The ape literally held Martin’s life in his hands.

“Ple-e-e-ase,” Martin begged. He could feel the blood rushing to his head. If there had been any money in his pockets it would have fallen out.

Martin’s St. Cajetan medallion dangled in front of his eyes, but his attention was focused on the expressionless face of Lorenzo the ape Aponte. Lorenzo leaned over the parapet and looked down at Martin. Lorenzo could have been reading a menu or dangling a man eight stories above the asphalt, it was impossible to tell.

Martin tilted his head back and saw a blue minivan exiting the parking garage below. He looked back up at the ape.

“Please,” he tried again. “I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you. Please.”

Lorenzo released Martin’s left ankle, sending a bolt of panic through Martin’s body. He closed his eyes and waited for the impact with the ground. When he opened his eyes the ape was scratching his nose with his free right hand. He glared down at Martin and spoke for the first time.

“So talk.”

“Yeah, yeah!” Martin said. “I will! Just pull me up. Please.”

The wheels that had driven Martin Aquino to his current predicament had been put into motion a year ago with the seemingly innocent purchase of a used car. It had taken him months to save the money, nothing fancy, just a 13-year-old Honda with about a million miles on it, but at least he had a car.

Unfortunately, Martin hadn’t known that the dude who sold him the car wasn’t the rightful owner…he was the guy who had stolen it from the projects in South Providence where some idiot had left it sitting in front of a bodega with the engine running. The Rhode Island DMV hadn’t scrutinized the signatures on the paperwork any more than Martin had; a cursory glance at best, as long as the government got their money they were happy.

For a week Martin drove the car around, unaware that there was twenty-five pounds of pot in the trunk until the pot’s rightful owner, a guy named Mutt, showed up to claim his weed. Mutt gave Martin two choices…he could be buried in the car or he could work off his mistake. Martin wasn’t sure exactly what his mistake had been, other than buying the wong used car, but he knew for sure it wasn’t worth getting dead over.

So he went to work for Mutt.

Martin became Mutt’s errand boy, making pick-ups, drops and, on more than one occasion, ripping people off for thousands of dollars on phony drug deals.

It was better than being dead—until Mutt ripped off the wrong guy.

Mutt’s victim worked for local mob boss, Don Gammino, and the ten grand they got from him was collection money. Needless to say, the mark didn’t live very long after Gammino found out about the con, but he did live long enough to tell Gammino about Martin.

And now the world was upside down—literally.

From Martin’s inverted perspective, the airliner lifting off the runway at TF Green airport looked like it was trying to land on its roof.

Martin’s stomach lurched momentarily when he felt sudden movement, but he felt a wave of relief when he realized he was moving up. The ape dropped him on the concrete deck and loomed over him. Martin froze, except for the trembling.

“Okay, ass-wipe, let’s hear it,” the ape said, “and it better be the truth or your last meal is going to be pavement.”

Martin nodded rapidly.

“His name is Mutt. He made me work for him, I had no choice.”

“Where can I find this Mutt?”

“He’ll kill me if I tell you.”

The ape reached for Martin’s ankle. “You either tell me what I want to know, or we find out if you can fly.”

The look in the ape’s eyes was enough to convince Martin. He told the ape everything he knew about Mutt—where his stash house was, where he hung out and where he liked to eat breakfast.

Lorenzo stepped over Martin to leave, pausing mid-step, his work boot hovering an inch above Martin’s face. Even though he feared his face was about to get squashed by Lorenzo’s size twelve, Martin became oddly fixated on a pebble wedged into one of the treads. The stomping never came. Instead, Lorenzo laughed and continued on his way to his car.

Only after Martin heard the tires of the ape’s car squealing on the level below did he pick himself up and brush the dust from his pants. “Jesus fucking Christ, I hate my life.”

He looked around to make sure nobody heard him. A seagull hovered high above him in the grey October sky. Martin watched it with envy.

“Just fly away,” he said. “God, I wish I could just fly away to an island somewhere. All by myself. No people, no problems.”

The chirp of a nearby car alarm snapped Martin out of his trance. A man in a trench coat, carrying a briefcase, approached a nearby BMW. Martin finished dusting himself off, drawing an over-the-shoulder glance from the man as he closed his car door and pulled away.

Martin rode the elevator to the ground floor and returned to his booth at the garage’s exit. The door of the other booth opened and Frank Edler crossed the garage exit lane.

“You were gone for a while,” he said to Martin. “You’re lucky Marco didn’t—whoa! What’s wrong? You look like death-warmed-over. What happened up there?”

“Nothing,” Martin said. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Don’t worry about it? If Marco had come by while you were up there, I would have been just as screwed as you. I have to worry about it.”

“Calm down, Frank. Marco didn’t come and I’m back. Let’s just get back to work.”

“You go up top with a leg-breaker for Don Gammino and come back a half hour later looking like death and I’m supposed to forget about it? I don’t think so.”

“Jesus, Frank. I got enough shit going on…I don’t need it from you, too.”

“I don’t care what you…”

A pickup truck pulled to a stop at Frank’s booth and the driver rolled his window down.

Martin motioned toward the truck with his chin. “Better take care of that,” he told Frank.

Frank looked over his shoulder at the truck. The driver looked back at him and waved his ticket.

“I’m not gonna get fired for you, that’s all I’m saying.” Frank stomped back to his booth.

A week later, just as Martin finished his shift and was about to leave work, a car pulled to a stop at his booth. Martin’s stomach clenched when Lorenzo rolled his window down and told Martin to get in the car. Martin was convinced that his life, as shitty as it might be, was almost over. With a strange mixture of fear and acceptance he got into the car.

To his great surprise, and even greater relief, the ape took Martin to see Don Gammino, who wanted to thank him for the information about Mutt, ensure him that he was in no danger and, surprise of all surprises, offer him a job washing dishes at his restaurant. It would mean some extra money, not a lot, but God knew he needed whatever he could get.

More than that, it meant he wasn’t going to die…not today anyway.

kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Eyewitness-Blues-Tim-Baker-ebook/dp/B00MTTRZLW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408373924&sr=8-1&keywords=Eyewitness+Blue

paperback  – http://www.amazon.com/Eyewitness-Blues-Tim-Baker/dp/0983520488/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1408373924&sr=8-1

Published works;

Living the Dream – Aug 2009

Water Hazard – Nov 2010

Backseat to Justice – July 2011

Pump It Up – Aug 2011

No Good Deed – May 2012

Unfinished Business – Aug 2013

Dying Days – The Siege of European Village (co-written w/Armand Rosamilia) – Dec 2012

Dying Days – Siege 2 (co-written w/Armand Rosamilia) – Dec 2013

To contact Tim or find out about upcoming works please visit his website at www.blindoggbooks.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/BlindoggBooks

Twitter – https://twitter.com/blindoggbooks

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/2873061-tim-baker

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002U64TCW

Thanks Tim for winding up the summer season of author promotion posts and wishing you the very best of luck with your latest release.

Promote Yourself: Antoinette Houston

I have another YA author here today to tell us about herself and her work. Antoinette, the stage is yours.

Hi! My name’s Antoinette Houston and I’ve published my first book February of this year! A story about a group of young adults who find out that they’ve been living a lie for the past eighteen years. It’s an Urban fantasy/Paranormal rated for young adults and up. It has fast paced action, suspense, romance and plenty of attitude.  It took me almost 20 years to finally publish this story. Got the courage when I realized that 40 was around the corner for me and i hadn’t done anything with any of my stories except write and rewrite them. I tried to go the traditional publish way but got scammed twice and became suspicious of anybody else. A cousin told me about Create-space and how he published two book through them with no issues. So I got myself together and just did it. It’s been a great ride so far. Since writing this story I’ve done two others and a sequel that wasn’t even supposed to be. Got into quilting but really into my latest hobby: leather working. great stress relief and a really good way to prevent writer’s block.

Here is the synopsis of Antoinette’s paranormal/urban fantasy, Red Summer

Rita found that she could manipulate fire, but her control was deteriorating. Her boyfriend, Wil, just wanted to enjoy being with her. Unfortunately her ‘baggage’ may prove to be too much. Ingrid wanted to help better the relationship between her brother and his foster daughter; Rita. But his paranoid antics were driving everyone crazy. Nikki thought his life was normal only to find that he, Wil, Ingrid and Rita had been living their high school lives over and over for the past eighteen years. Bobby, the cause of all the madness, has run out of time to find a solution to Rita’s problem. He was going to have to give them back their memories in order for them to realize the danger. That was only if he could convince them to over look their hatred for him.

You can find more information on me and my book here:

https://www.facebook.com/RedSummerUF

https://twitter.com/1975Okame

AntoinetteHouston.com

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Antoinette-Houston/e/B00I2Y81VG

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20714142-red-summer

BookCoverImage

Excerpt from Red Summer – An Urban Fantasy by Antoinette J. Houston

She slowly made her way around, searching for anything to help her enter. She came upon the stump at the very rear of the yard. A couple of feet from where the tree had been, the fence was crushed. A storm or something must have caused the tree to fall on the fence, giving her the opening she needed to get in.

Rita realized her mistake as soon as she was over the fence: she had no way to get back over from this side. She started to panic.  Gabe wasn’t going to come back until he saw smoke and he was true  to his word. She had to burn something for him to come back and help her out. She poked around and found some partially empty cans of paint and other flammable chemicals. They would give off more than enough smoke. She took out her lighter and picked up some scrap canvas that was on the ground. She had just lit it when she heard the growling behind her.

Rita didn’t like dogs and this one was huge. It was some kind of monster hybrid of mastiff and chow. It had a large head and big teeth, and the rolling growl it was giving did more than terrify her. Rita did everything she could to prevent a  scream from ripping free.

It happened immediately. Pressure built up in her chest and was released as she screamed when the dog moved toward her. Without warning, the fire she had started blossomed to an inferno. The flames swirled around her, causing her to become more panicked: now on top of being mauled by a monster dog, she was going to be burned.

But she didn’t feel anything. She opened her eyes to see the flames dancing around her like leaves in the wind. The dog, on the other hand, was whimpering painfully as the flames had singed it. Rita raised her hand toward the fire in stunned fascination and watched the whirling flames move further out from her, sending the dog scampering away in fear.

At that moment, her fear of Gabe vanished. She  was calm now that the dog was gone and she came to the realization that she wasn’t freaked out about this ‘ability’. She looked at her hands, watching the feathers of flames circle around her fingers then split off to rejoin the whirling flames about her. It was as if somewhere in the back of her mind she knew she could do this.  She simply never attempted to.

Rita looked around the yard and shook her head. She had no ill-will toward the junkyard owner so she wasn’t going to destroy it as Gabe wanted. Instead she headed back toward the fence, the flames winding about her. She looked at a spot on the fencing and watched the flames slowly burn through the metal. The fire went from rich red to blinding white as it turned the metal into liquid, creating a widening hole to give her escape. It was easy. She focused on the stump and watched the fire devour it hungrily. The smoke she needed to signal Gabe filled the air.

amzn.to/1labE3H

Thanks for participating, Antoinette, and the very best of luck with your writing 🙂

The Author Hot Seat with David Higgins: We didn’t have genre when I was young

David Higgins is my guest today, a short story writer who has found that the problem of fitting into the category straight-jacket is amplified when your short stories aren’t all in the same style. Here’s how Dave copes with the conundrum and gives us his take on the genre monster.

Dave - Mugshot

Genre didn’t exist when I was young.

While I became aware of genre later (and that other people might be more guided by it) I never let it constrain my reading choices. So it came as a surprise to me when I planned my first release, quite how obsessed the publishing and distribution industry was with genre. And that, for every issue novels faced due to genre, there were twice as many for short story collections.

When I say genre didn’t exist when I was young, I mean of course that I had no reason to care about it when I was a child. The Children’s section of the library in my home town was divided into picture books and other books: the Hungry Caterpillar was separate from Anne of Green Gables; but Enid Blyton was on the same shelves as Andre Norton. I have a vague recollection of a Young Adult classification, but as a sticker on the spine not a defined set of shelves.

My first encounter with genre was when I moved into the Adult shelves: some of the authors who wrote books on both sides of the quasi-arbitrary Adult/Child line were shelved in a special area; others weren’t; and some were shelved in more than one place.

In the decades between moving into the Adult shelves and preparing to publish, my sense of genre as a limitation had almost entirely died. Therefore, it came as a surprise that the most common advice I received when I mentioned publishing to other authors was,“get the genre classification right: books listed in the wrong genre or without a strong genre don’t sell at all.”

As my first publication was Fauxpocalypse, an anthology of short works set after a predicted global disaster didn’t happen, this proved to be quite a puzzler: some of the contributors had written thrillers; some had written horror; some had focused on the external effects of the oncoming threat; some had focused only tangentially referred to social upheaval.

Fauxpocalypse - Front Cover 72dpi

With some retailers giving me only one space for category, I felt real pressure to pick the best fit. But going through the classic genre and sub-genre options, I almost immediately realised it didn’t quite fit most of the options: it wasn’t all horror, or all sci-fi, or all mystery, or all anything.

The options that did fit the entire collection didn’t really seem utterly helpful. It was a fiction anthology, but what did that actually tell the reader about it? Was there any purpose in using up my one chance at finding readers who did confine themselves to a few shelves by defining it as a ‘short-story collection’?

In the end, the best fit was Post-Apocalyptic fiction: in the hope that readers would find similar interest in a world that didn’t end.

The overall experience of publishing Fauxpocalypse having not put me off writing all together, I went through my list of work to decide on a new project. I had a number of short stories that had been published in obscure places where I had the anthology rights. Having read many collections of authors’ republished works over the decades, I decided to release An Unquiet Calm, a collection of my own work.
UnquietCover72

I assumed it would be easier to publish a collection entirely of my own short stories. Ironically, listing it was much harder, for more than one reason.

Where Fauxpocalypse was defined by a common world that would – potentially imperfectly – fit a genre, An Unquiet Calm was defined by all being written by me. There were themes that were common to my writing, and personality types I favoured slightly for characters, but the tropes and settings were varied.

The high church of Literature aside, there are no categories for an author’s specific perspectives on life redrawn as fiction.

And many people who divide fiction into Literature and not, use the division to mean ‘proper fiction’ and ‘speculative fiction’. Thus, as I do write in worlds of science-fiction, fantasy, or horror, Literature didn’t seem ideal either.

Even splitting my collection into science-fiction and not, or any other genre and not, I couldn’t build a collection long enough to be more than a pamphlet.

I was rescued from this metaphysical headache by the discovery of an unspoken rule about genre: “if it sort of fits it might be fine”; my collection would not fail utterly if it was in a genre that didn’t fit one of the stories.

With two collections fitted into the boxes of genre, I thought I had a handle on the issues. So I expanded my reach from the established distributors to more innovative start-ups: lenders of eBooks, and crowd-pricing sites.

With the issue of a physical book having to be in a single place at any one time not present, and the massive power of search engines to leverage, I expected these online models to offer both readers and publishers a new flexibility, and some did.

However, I also found a new set of mandatory boxes: What is the romance level of the book? What is the profanity level of the book? What race is the protagonist? What religion is the protagonist? Where is the book set?

Some apply as easily to a collection as a novel: the profanity, gore, and sex filters are much more likely to be activated by people who wish to avoid them, so can be set to the worst case of all the stories.

But the religion or setting of the book? One of my stories deals with a man wrestling with God’s goodness in an imperfect world, so might be of interest to people who include Christianity in their search; but the remainder of the collection isn’t Christian, so isn’t necessarily what people who exclude Christian protagonists are seeking to avoid. And the locations and time periods are even more diverse: modern day Yorkshire, 1950’s West Country, fantasy Northern Europe, &c.

When I first mentioned I was writing short stories, several people commented it would never produce a career because people don’t read collections of short stories. Having published two collections, I am lead to wonder whether it is not a dislike of short stories but an inability to find them that is stopping the collections being read.

As long as libraries and book shops have a physical presence (and I hope it this will be a long time), there will be a need for a label to physically sort books, but by taking the genre model into the realm of detailed searches and extending the constraints rather than the options, distributors make it harder for authors and for readers.

So I hope the vast potential of online distribution will allow a return to that innocence of childhood: when we can find adult stories about a princess who is both a ninja and an elephant as easily as stories about a space captain who is different but not too different from the space captains of other books.
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Thank you, Dave for adding another point to the growing list of problems writers have with the publishing industry’s mania for classification and sub-classification. Short story collections start off with the handicap that everybody *knows* nobody reads them. Tell people that often enough and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’d be interested to hear how you get on with promoting your work. Thanks again for an entertaining and instructive article.

Dave Higgins has worked in law and IT for both public and private sector organisations. When not pursuing these hobbies, he writes poetry and (mostly) speculative fiction.

He was born in Wiltshire, England. Raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, and many shelves of books.

More details on Fauxpocalypse, An Unquiet Calm, other publications, and free samples of his work can be found here.

He can also be found on various social media:
Twitter: @David_J_Higgins
Google+: +DaveHiggins
Pinterest: davidjhiggins

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