Confessions of a genre hopper

I write and publish stories in multiple genre’s. The freedom to do this is one of the things I love about being an independent author.

It’s not that big of deal, but it goes against the conventional wisdom of publishing (which matches most business conventional wisdom) that says to focus on a specific market. This is why we have traditionally been able to classify authors as a horror writer, thriller writer or historical fiction writer. The logic is sound. When you pick up a book by an author it’s nice to know what to expect. But that’s not me.

As a reader, I love genre hopping and I suspect I am far from alone. Genre hopping allows me to list The Bourne Identity, The Pillars of the Earth and Wool as some of my favorite books. It means I can go back and re-read Lord of the Flies even when my TBR pile includes The Martian and A Clean Kill in Tokyo. What I read influences what I think about and therefore the stories that I want to tell.

When it comes to writing, the most common question I get is where do the ideas come from. The answer to that is everywhere. I probably have twenty story ideas a day. Many of them are discarded but some come back over and over again. I refuse to discard the ideas based on genre, I prefer to focus on how thought provoking the idea is. When something sticks with me for over a month it warrants a note in the future stories folder.

This is all well and good until I started looking for blog ideas. Conventional wisdom came up again and suggested that I blog about the themes and elements of my stories. That’s a little tricky when my stories deal with innate intelligence, surviving the zombie apocalypse and solving crimes – with ideas for romance and urban fantasy.

There is a tendency among indie authors to blog about writing and the self-publishing business and there are some great ones out there (Joe Konrath & Joanne Penn leap to mind), but that doesn’t help my readers understand me and why I genre hop. So I decided that I would start blogging about story ideas and where they come from. I’ll let you know about the thoughts, events and emotions that ignite a spark in my brain. Hopefully we can be thought provoking together and you can get some insight into what I’ve written, and what I will write in the future.

I’d love to know how you feel about genre hopping. How varied is your tbr pile?


3 Things I realized while flying around the world

During the last two months of July I had the chance to travel to China with my family. Our time in China was amazing and it will definitely be referenced in future posts.

A side effect of this trip was that we wound up literally flying around the world – Boston/Chicago/Beijing on the way there and Beijing/Frankfurt/Boston on the way home. To me that was pretty cool and not something most people probably get to experience.

While my Kindle was loaded with books for this trip and the planes had a long list of in flight entertainment there was still plenty of down time to think and reflect. In that down time I realized three things that seem obvious, but are often ignored; People are pretty nice, My comfort zone is holding me back and Please and thank you are the ultimate icebreakers.

1. People are pretty nice

Going through airports you simply see thousands of people, there’s no way around it. Lets face it too, there is some stress involved with traveling. From Kiosk checkin and getting through security to ground delays and over booked flights, there is plenty to try your patience.

I saw more nods of quiet acceptance and displays of understanding than I expected. More surprising to me was the total lack of outbursts and anger. Maybe people understand the facts around flying these days but it was still impressive.

Having everyone calmly work together within the rules won’t grab clicks and eyeballs the way a great story about someone losing their cool will. As a parent traveling with three kids though I was glad we didn’t have a memorable angry flier story.

2. My comfort zone is holding me back

Sitting anywhere for 14 hours straight is uncomfortable. The middle seat in coach does nothing to change that. I spent a lot of time thinking about being home on my porch watching the sunrise with a cup of coffee.

It dawned on me somewhere near the arctic circle that all I had waiting when I got home was a porch with nothing to do. This past year I had competed a few big projects, the family trip to China being the last of them. When we got home I realized that I had nothing significant to work on.

I’ve read so many articles and stories about people who had success with their writing only after some difficult event forced them to commit to their work. I want to earn my success before it becomes imperative.

Daydreaming about my stories and writing a few hundred words a day is over. Write, publish, repeat is my next big project.

3. Please, thank you and a smile are the ultimate icebreakers

Flying to China is a true multi-national experience. Multi-lingual flight attendants and people from the world over create a unique experience. While English was almost always present it wan’t always clear communication.

One of the skills I have been working on is connecting with new and interesting people. I started our trip armed with a few great opening questions to help me learn about different ways of life. The challenge with these connection questions is how to break the ice. You don’t simply walk up to a stranger and ask “Is Beijing your final destination?”

My kids helped me discover this one. In addition to surprising me with their good manners, they were engaging with people about our trip and what we were going to see. People weren’t afraid to ask them about their trip because they are polite and speak clearly.

Present yourself as an open, rational person and others will be more comfortable engaging with you, even if it takes a little work to communicate.

We had an amazing time in China and thoroughly enjoyed the novelty of flying around the world. I personally learned and experienced so much that I will be talking about the trip regularly for quite a while.

I wanted to share these three things today because they were on the top of my mind. In the coming weeks there will be more about our trip.

Have you had the chance to fly around the world?