Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Rose by any other name -- would be difficult to sell ...

... Or ...
I came here expecting horses

There's been a lot of hoopla of late over genre, cross-genre, tagging, labeling -- whatever you want to call it. Writers agonize over what genre their book fits into, which agent/small press/publisher to submit their work to, what tags to use on Amazon and so on.

The situation strikes me as one in which we've built the buggy and now feel compelled to find the one and only horse to pull it -- or perhaps the perfect compliment of horses to pull it.

News flash: You can switch horses. Anytime.

That horse, er, label is, and always has been, a marketing tool. It does more to help focus marketing efforts on niche groups (reader target audiences) than it does to help niche groups find books to read. (think of it as the difference between being pursued by a guy you'd probably like vs. a guy you'd find boring) (Now, that's not a bad thing -- although you'd probably be missing some gems).

We want people to read our books, but hey, even Coca Cola targets audiences. Sometimes companies even create niche groups (anybody remember the "Pepsi Generation"?). However, until you get to be your own genre (Steven King, Lee Child, JK Rowling, Janet Evanovich ....) you have to target a genre if you expect to sell. That doesn't mean you can't include different genres in your work, it means you have to be able to use a label without lying (too much) if you want to sell your books easily.


Yes. Stop laughing. "Easily" only because otherwise, it becomes a lot more work. That's probably why marketing departments in publishing houses have been seen making purchasing decisions (I was shocked, too, when I found that out. If I was in marketing -- which I was years ago -- wouldn't it be my job to sell what my company produced, not tell my company what they should make?) (yes, I'm perfectly aware of the value of market analysis -- did it myself)

As writers, we not only need to learn to write well enough to hold a reader's interest (otherwise we write ONLY for ourselves), but we have to learn how to stir up excitement in a specific group by using a very few well chosen phrases....not exactly lying, but selective truth-telling.

We can do that, right? We write fiction, after all.

The labeling/genre situation is far too established to fight and conquer at this point -- and I'm not sure it's such a good idea, anyway. However, we can learn to market to target audiences who, once having discovered a good read, don't seem to mind multiple genres at all.

So, if you want to sell a rose don't call it "a flowering bush that requires a lot of fertilizer, water and spraying for insects and disease, and produces blooms for a couple of months out of the year." Call it "a bush that produces armloads of fragrant blossoms," "a velvety flower given to one's heart's desire," "an ancient symbol of passion," AND call it a "Rose." People get that. Those of us who love roses, don't really mind the other, un-poetic stuff -- we know it and don't want to hear it. The other sometimes-truthful description simply feeds our interest.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Podcast Interveiw

This week, all my energy went into an interview over at Unruly Guides. Suzanne Parrot made me feel right at home as we chatted about books, writing and the writing life. Follow the link and have a listen while I talk about characters who get away with murder and tell me how to write the story, and why in the world I included a food fight in An Error In Judgment! It's all good fun and perhaps a little advice tossed in for good measure.

Unruly Guides is a terrific website for all kinds of writerly advice, including help in self publishing from formatting for e-book to marketing and promotion.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Interview with HOT New Author, Kaylan Doyle

Today I have the great pleasure to be able to pull up a chair next to the Writing Horses cozy "writers' fire" with Kaylan Doyle, author of the new scifi adventure-thriller, Survivors' Dreams. Although Kaylan is from my neck of the woods, she writes about other worlds in a clear and compelling manner that simply absorbs the reader. She is easily one of the most imaginative authors I've encountered. Survivors' Dreams debuted at Dragon Con 2011 to overflowing praise, and is sure to be one of the hottest books of the year.

A Kra'aken warplane, severely damaged in an attack that may have destroyed the home planet, carries its near-dead pilot through a strange portal. Maintained in stasis for nearly 150 years by the ship's artificial intelligence, Prince Helrazr is awakened in an alien galaxy. His mission: to find Kra'aken srvivors or die…

Lady Rak'khiel, a toddler sent in a survival pod to escape Kra'aken's destruction, also passes through the hidden portal only to crash-land on the planet Olica, a primitive world ruled by Kra'aken's deadliest enemies. Found by a childless woman who hides her from those who would kill her, Rak'khiel grows to puberty ignorant of her heritage and the danger surrounding her.

The two meet as Rak'khiel is simultaneously fleeing for her life and changing into a Kra'aken adult. Although she desperately needs his help, and he requires her companionship to continue living, their alliance is fragile -- complicated by differences that may turn them against each other and laden with perils they may not survive.


Welcome, Kaylan! I'm so happy you can be here. You have wonderful, creative ideas for stories. What inspires you?

I’m always applying the “what if?” question to my life, my interaction with people (friends and strangers) and with animals. I watch the History Channel, the news, and I read in every genre. With each new thought or bit of information - tragedies, natural disasters, scientific discoveries, etc., I find I’m extrapolating a scene. These grow to be part of a larger structure. What if she/he found herself in this situation? What would she/he do? How would she/he survive? What tools would they need? The answers create a story in my mind.

To my way of thinking, that starts to create the structure for a story. Do you carry that structure further? In other words, are you a plotter or a pantser? 

I try to be an organized plotter but no … I’m a pantser. I begin with a mental picture of how the characters look, who they are and how they will react. But the plot, the situations and the outcomes morph into unforseen twists and turns. Almost without exception my finished manuscript is nothing like my original idea or plot.

LOL! I think a good many of us writers could confess to that. Even when we try to herd our characters back into a preconceived story line they'll insist on doing what they want. I love that part of story-creation. There are times when I find it difficult to get into my story-world. Does that ever happen to you? Do you ever not feel like writing? If you do, what do you do to kick the muse back into the chair and re-immerse yourself into the amazing worlds you create?

It is a rare occasion when I don’t want to write. But when it does, I either go for a drive, wander through a bookstore, people-watch or meet a friend for coffee or lunch. If the person I meet is a fellow writer, by the time we finish our conversation, I’m ready to get home and go to work.

That's good advice -- go out and seek inspiration and haul it out from the rock it's hiding under! What's your favorite part of writing?

The initial draft – the free-flowing rush of ideas and words.

Why is that?

Creating characters, seeing them come alive on the page, developing their personalities – both good and bad – is a rush! There is so much joy in taking my imagined worlds, and giving them form and substance so my readers can experience them too. Sharing the fun, the what-ifs, is like a party with your best friends.

Sounds like the kind of party I'd enjoy. Especially if your characters were in attendance. Some of them would scare me but, I've got to tell you, I wouldn't mind partying with Razr! Hunky guy -- even if he is dangerous and has well …"unusual" food preferences. Speaking of "different," among your unique characters are many who are non-human or partially human. Why choose creatures as opposed to human sidekicks?

I love combining the best (or worst) of behaviors of both human and non-humans. The possibilities are endless for creating physical traits – extra strength or intelligence or other enhancements, plus also it gives me opportunities to place constraints on such characters, making goal attainment more difficult. Creatures add such interesting variety, in addition to a cast of regular humans and animals. Plus I just love making them up.

I heard that diabolical chuckle! Is there anything you don't enjoy? What is your least favorite part of writing?

The fifth … or perhaps the eighth … revision. I love working through the manuscript a second time, and the third is still enjoyable. But by that time, a new story is bubbling in my mind, demanding my full attention and the revision becomes a “To Do” task instead of a joy.

Does that "To Do" task ever extend to having to write something you don't want to, like a bloody scene, a death, or sex? How do you work around the "disinclination"?

Yes. There are scenes which I absolutely must write to satisfy my reader and I’ll admit to “writing around” a scene which made me uncomfortable. One of my test readers called me on it. He insisted it was absolutely necessary, I had to include it or leave my reader feeling shortchanged. I knew he was right. Although it made me uncomfortable, I wrote the scene (as honestly as I could) and the result was a much better book.

I should probably ask what those scenes were in Survivors' Dreams, but I'm not going to. The whole story was so consuming and exciting I can't imagine any of it being a chore to write! You had me on the edge of my seat and turning pages so fast I thought they'd catch fire! Thanks so much for stopping by today, Kaylan. We'll have to do this again. Can you let our reader know where they can get your book, and how they can contact you? I'm betting there's more than one reader who can wait to start chapter one!

You are much too kind but I appreciate both your comments and the opportunity to chat with you on Writing Horses. I’d love to talk with you again. In answer to your question, Survivors’ Dreams by Kaylan Doyle is available in print at Amazon.com. The epub version can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and very soon at Sony and iBookstore.


Kaylan Doyle has been reading and writing her entire life. Years ago, a co-worker handed her Dune. Three pages and she was hooked. After a second loan, Lord of the Rings, Kaylan set a goal - to someday write her own novel. Survivors' Dreams, a Science Fiction action fantasy, is the realization of that goal. Bijoux Magic, a Paranormal urban fantasy, will be released November 2011. Sequels to both books are under construction, and will be published in 2012.
Kaylan lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two extraordinary cats. She enjoys reading, knitting, Tarantino and Coen Brothers movies, watching football and spending time with friends.