Monday Musings: Micro-Genres?

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by Kathleen Valentine

genreRecently I received an email from Audible.com in which they offered a list of what they called “micro-genres” in their audio books. I found it pretty interesting and it got me thinking about quirky trends that I had been referring to as “sub-genres” but these are even more sub than that.

Awhile back, I came across possibly the most bizarre trend I’d ever seen and now I know it has to be a micro-genre. This is in the field of erotica—not a category I spend much time thinking about—and it had to do with dinosaurs. Yes, you read the right—sexy dinosaurs. I am not really sure if these are shape-shifting dinos. Shape-shifting seems to be a definite micro-genre so it could be either. I was not sufficiently curious to read far enough to find out.

So I looked up micro-genre and discovered the term has been around for awhile. Most of the references I found referred to contemporary music or to movies. Netflix, the huge online movie rental giant, has genres within genres, within genres. Those of us who publish with Amazon are also aware of these sub>sub>sub>sub genres when we try to find the best ones for our books. I have seen books on Amazon so deeply buried in sub-genres that it was hard for me to imagine more than one such book existed.

So here are a few of the trending micro-genres according to Audible:

Works on Art: This is mostly novels, but some non-fiction work, that revolves around an artist or a work of art examples being The Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Lady in Gold, and Vanished Smile. It seems to be genre that is growing in popularity as I have noticed writers like Alice Hoffman and Ross King producing these stories.

Communing with Animals: Some of these are loosely based in science others are just warm and cuddly tributes to animal friends and companions. Popular titles are The Genius of Birds, The Soul of an Octopus, and What a Fish Knows. I’ll let you sort them out.

The Drug Trade: The drug trade has captured the public imagination both the illegal trade as discussed in American Desperado and At the Devil’s Table, and the explosion of legal prescription drugs and their uses as in ADHD Nation and In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.

Alternate History: I’m actually surprised to see this called a micro-genre because it has been around for awhile and is very popular from what I’ve seen. One of the best, in my opinion, is Stephen King’s 11.22.63 which I loved. The very popular Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell has recently been turned into a Netflix series. Other popular titles include The Years of Rice and Salt and Underground Airline. Hey, why not give it a try? It could have happened…

Handyman Romance, Cowboy Romance, Highlander Romance, Navy SEAL Romance: There is no end to this and all you have to do is go to Amazon and search one of those phrases. In fact, for your entertainment, I did that and the results show: Handyman Romance – 397 (including “handyman bear shape-shifter” I’m not kidding), Cowboy Romance – 500+, Highlander Romance – 500+ including a sub-micro genre, Medieval Highlander Romance, Navy SEAL Romance – also 500+.

There are a lot more micro-genres. For writers seeking a category in which they can see their books rise quickly through the ranks it can be worth your while to explore micro-genres that might fit. This could be your chance to rank #1 in a category—all you have to do is find it.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. I couldn’t help myself–I just checked and there are 500+ listings for “dinosaur erotica.” Just in case you wanted to know.

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Monday Musings: Writing Advice To Blissfully Ignore

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by Kathleen Valentine

Never miss a good chance to shut up.” – Will Rogers

lucyFor several years now I have begun my writing day by creating a little graphic that consists of an attractive photo and a quote from a writer that I find interesting. I gather these quotes from the internet and am frequently amused by the really bad advice I encounter in the process. I’ve always loved Somerset Maugham’s quote, “There are three rules for writing a novel, unfortunately no one knows what they are.” The truth is that over the years I’ve found some books of writing advice that have been truly helpful, but just because someone has successfully written a few books that have done well, does not mean they know how to write. Picasso once said that you should learn the rules of your craft so you can break them like an artist and I think that is good advice.

Edgar Allen Poe once wrote that a writer should “include a beautiful woman with raven locks ad porcelain skin, preferably quite young, and let her die tragically of an unknown ailment.” That might have worked for him but it certainly has no useful information for the rest of the writing world. Elmore Leonard said, “Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.” Clearly he was not a fan of Marcel Proust. But even non-Proustian writers can write deliciously thrilling descriptions. One of the scenes that will live in my memory forever is from A.S. Byatt’s Possession. When Roland and Maude go into Christabel’s old bedroom for the first time and find the cradle full of dolls that conceals her love letters, I got a chill down my spine that recurs when I think about that scene.

In addition to that writers are often advised to avoid adjectives and adverbs but anyone who has read writers like Salman Rushdie or Alice Hoffman know how beautifully those words can be used to paint pictures in the reader’s mind. Kurt Vonnegut was not a fan of semicolons. He called them “transvestite hermaphrodites” and claimed all they did was prove that you went to college. Of course, Virgina Woolf, who never went to college was quite fond of them. They worked for her.

Then there are the old canards that many writers accept as true, but are, in fact, not. Probably foremost among these is “write what you know.” It is true that writing out of one’s experience can often create exciting reading, but where in the world would J.K. Rowling have experienced the world she created in her Harry Potter books?

Don’t forget all the advice about creating outlines for stories. To me, this is one of those concepts that may be very true for one writer and a complete disaster for another. Some writers have a gift for “story.” They can sit down and begin to write and watch with fascination while their characters appear and develop, and plots unfold. Their characters can change direction and do crazy, unexpected things and the writer is just along for the ride. Other writers need a road map. One is not a better way to write than the other—what matters is that you know what works for you and write accordingly.

Of all the writing books I own, the one I most often take down to peruse is Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing. In it he says, “Work. Don’t think. Relax and work.” It’s hard to add anything to that.

Thanks for reading.

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Monday Musings: Some Thoughts On Anthologies

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by Kathleen Valentine

OutShadowsThroughout my years as a writer I have been invited to participate in a number of anthologies and I try to take advantage whenever such an offer is made. In fact this week the latest anthology I participated in was released. This one is called Out of the Shadows and is available currently from Amazon, Kobo, and Scribd. It is a collection of nine short stories by an international group of nine women writers.

When I was asked to participate in this, I was told they were looking for short stories that were original and featured a strong female lead character. Of all my female characters probably the strongest is Vivienne Lang, the mixed-martial artist who is featured in three of my four Crazy Old Lady books. Viv is an accomplished fighter and does not hesitate to knock someone on their backside or punch them in the nose if necessary, but she also has a fragile side that I love. As I contemplated writing a short story about Viv, I decided to depart from my usual psychological horror in those stories and do something different. The title of the story is What Is the Group Noun for Crazy Old Ladies? I’m eager to see what people think of the story.

As I was reading this collection—which features stories by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar and Christine Nolfi, whose works I have read previously, and six stories by writers whose work I don’t know—I thought that anthologies are an interesting way for writers to cross-promote one another. But it is a good idea to have certain parameters on who is included in any collection.

Years ago, when I was new at this stuff, I contributed to an anthology that was doomed from the start. A bunch of us who participated in an early online writer’s group decided to do it. The end product was a mess because we had no guidelines for the collection. One story was romantic, one was comedy, one was paranormal, mine was a crime story. There was absolutely nothing cohesive about it except that all of us belonged to the same forum and how was the reader supposed to know that?

Later I was included in a few more that were better organized—three were all crime stories, two were women’s fiction, and one, Cooking With Our Characters, was a charming combination of excerpts with recipes. The idea of any anthology is that all the included authors will promote their books to their readers and, if the readers like a particular genre or style, they may find other stories in the collection that appeal to them as well. It’s a good way to expand readership.

I came across a very worthwhile blog post by Alex J. Cavanaugh called Anthologies: How They Can Advance Your Writing Career. I know Alex from the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge and he makes some excellent points in his post and offers good advice. One of the things he mentions is that when you decide to organize an anthology be very clear on the guidelines and requirements for submission. I think this is where a lot of anthologies fall flat—there is too much diversity of genre or style. I admit I, as a reader, am as guilty of this as anyone. There are genres I read and genres that I just skip. I refuse to read anything about zombies.

Length is also a factor for me. I tend to purchase anthologies of short stories but when it is a collection of full length works, I tend to skip it. I am not sure why. Maybe because I have more books than I can give my attention to as is, and I don’t want to download 10 full-length novels just to get 1 or 2.

All that being said, a well-planned and executed anthology can be a big boost for writers who want to cross-promote one another’s books. I can recommend a good example—why not try Out of the Shadows to start?

Thanks for reading.

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