What in the World Is “Family Fiction”?

[Arrested Development]
Photo courtesy of Deadline | Hollywood

A while ago, I told you about a novel I had adapted from one of my old screenplays (see “Adapting a Screenplay—Fun Times”). As I was writing the book, I thought my biggest challenge would be making a decent novel out of what is essentially a blueprint for a movie, which is what a screenplay is. The good news? I showed a recent draft to a few trusted friends, and the consensus is that the story works. Now for the bad news.

Finding Your Genre
Typically, when writing a novel you have pretty good idea about which genre you’re in. We’ve been trained to think this way, and it’s my view that this is mostly due to the influence of movies and television. What’s the first thing an agent asks you (after “Who are you again?”)—what is it? And they’re not talking about the story, my friend. No, they are asking whether it’s rom-com, horror, thriller, period, coming-of-age, etc. In other words, they want to know how to market it.

And here’s the thing—because we as writers are already trained, we will write according to these predefined genres, or categories. Of course, Amazon makes it easy too. When you publish your book, you are asked to select up to three categories. Here’s one—Fiction->Romance->Contemporary.

But what if your story doesn’t fall neatly into a pigeon hole?

Genre Benders
This is where I found myself after finishing my novel. And I will tell you in all honesty, this is precisely why I had struggled with the screenplay. In my mind, I had a great story, but it wasn’t targeted at a particular audience (kids, millennials, older adults, etc.). So, now what?

Well, I had a great conversation with my friend Melodie Ramone, who I interviewed recently. Melodie is not only a brilliant writer, but she knows the publishing world well—particularly when it comes to what publishers want from fiction. And what they want is apparently no different than what those pesky Hollywood agents want—they want to categorize the book so they can market it in the same tired way they do all the others that fall into your particular genre.

Sadly, my book is what Melodie calls a “genre bender.” And, bless her, she didn’t discourage me from publishing it. Sure, I’ll probably never get a literary agent to look at it, but who cares? I’m focused on indie publishing anyway. Of course, I still have to figure out how to market the damned thing, and that is still the problem.

Family Fiction
In researching genre-bending types of fiction, I ran across a term I wasn’t familiar with—family fiction. I tried looking it up, and guess what—there is no definition. I found items as diverse as “Christian fiction,” “family saga” and “domestic fiction.” In fact, there’s a site called FamilyFiction.com that appears to try and own the brand, categorizing itself as a purveyor of Christian fiction.

When I searched Amazon’s Kindle store, I found that “family fiction” is a recognized search term. The first book that popped up on the list at the time of this writing was The Doctor’s Unexpected Family by Kristen Ethridge. You got it—Christian fiction. The second was A Legacy of Secrets by Jean Reinhardt, which is listed as a family saga. Then there’s Alone by Holly Hook, which appears to be targeted to the YA/Sci-Fi/Fantasy crowd. I saw other titles with “family” in them, which unfortunately means that Mario Puzo’s The Family is included. Now, most people are aware that Amazon is great at leveraging big data, but the fact that Christian fiction-themed books appear alongside stories about La Cosa Nostra tells me that family fiction is not a true genre, at least as far as they’re concerned.

Alternatively, if you visit Goodreads, you’ll find a list of family fiction that features books as diverse as The Round House by Louise Erdrich, The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling and An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L’Engle (which is part of her “A Wrinkle in Time” series). Now granted, the only reason the list contains these books is because readers shelved them that way, which tells me that readers themselves don’t really understand what family fiction is. They probably figure, hey, if it’s about a family, then it must be family fiction. So wait, could it be that simple?

Bringing It Home
Back to my story. My book is told mostly in the first person by a thirteen-year-old girl. But occasionally, I use third-person omniscient because there are important scenes that don’t include her but drive the other characters—her mother and father, for example.

I still haven’t figured out how I am going to market this thing, but Melodie gave me some great suggestions. I will keep you informed as to my progress. In the meantime, I would love to see some comments about what you consider to be family fiction.

EVEN THE DEAD WILL BLEED Is Free for Five Days!

[ETDWB 3D Cover (Small)]Even The Dead Will Bleed (Book Three of TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD) is free for download at Amazon March 23rd through the 27th, 2016. If you haven’t purchased Book Three yet, now’s your chance to grab it for free. Visit this link starting today and download the book to your Kindle.

 

 

Book Blurb
Dave Pulaski is headed to Los Angeles to kill Walt Freeman, the person responsible for devastating Tres Marias. But everything changes when he rescues Sasha, a Russian girl who escaped the facility where Walt was holding her. Pursued by a relentless ex-military sociopath working for Walt and by scientifically engineered humans who flay their victims alive, chances are that Dave will die before he can save Sasha.

Even The Dead Will Bleed (Book Three of TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD) is a dark fantasy, sci-fi thriller—a nonstop horror train—that will deliver Dave to the brink of Hell. Revenge is a powerful drug that can drive a man to do unspeakable things. But as he will learn, Faith can give him the courage to face death without fear. If you like your thrillers dark and fast-paced, then don’t miss the heart-pounding conclusion to this trilogy. “Faith and bravery band together to fight a horrific world turned upside down and inside out” (S.R. Mallery).

Tell Me When I’m Dead
And if you haven’t read the series at all, note that Book One is always free. You can download it using the following links:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Kobo
Overdrive
Smashwords

Happy reading!

Interview with Melodie Ramone, Author of LIGHTS OF POLARIS

[Lights of Polaris Banner]

Today, I’m pleased to have as my guest Melodie Ramone, author of the literary novel Lights of Polaris. Enjoy the interview, and don’t forget to enter the Lights of Polaris Giveaway!

Q. Melodie, you started writing at a fairly young age. What kinds of things did you write back when you were a kid?

A. I’ve always written literary fiction, more or less, but when I was a kid I wrote about weird stuff more than I do now. I was a pioneer of fan fiction (laughs). In 1983 or 1984, I wrote a twenty-page novella entitled The Return of ET, where ET came back to visit and got stuck again or something. I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure it was awful. I do remember being told that it was unpublishable because of the original story. It was my introduction to copyright laws. But, beyond that, I wrote tons of poetry in junior high school and went into magazine articles and local newspaper when I was in high school. I did that for years. I didn’t really start full-length novels until I was in my thirties, but I wish I had.

Q. Wow, that’s way more writing than I did at that age! I was happy to learn that you had worked in the music industry for a number of years. Can you talk a little bit about that period? What are some of your favorite bands?

A. Oh, yeah. That. Well, my very first job was working for a small public relations firm from Baltimore, Maryland, that supported artists from Chrysalis Records. I was sixteen and had friends who were out in LA making a splash on the 80’s music scene. They introduced me to some people, and I got offered a job as an area representative in Chicago. What I did in the beginning was run around passing out flyers and doing inventory in record stores. I set up a street team, and we’d call radio stations and blow up the phones at MTV. We did snail mail blitzes and all kinds of stuff like that. It was a lot of fun, but it didn’t pay really great. Most of my salary consisted of backstage passes and free dinners, and I got to tag along from show to show on various tour buses with rock stars.

I did meet a ton of people, and I made friends with some unlikely souls. The music business isn’t a far cry from the publishing industry, to be honest. It’s colorful, vicious and wonderful. It’s filled with every type of personality you can imagine. I met people who were larger than life, and I met people who were nothing, but who the PR companies had blown up into something unreal. I think that alone was an education—watching human beings who were filled with real charisma and something magical being set shoulder to shoulder with pretenders. It taught me about the line between fact and fiction that transcends reality, and those geniuses at the PR firm showed me how to present that in a way that people can embrace. I use that spin a lot when I write, and spend a lot of time in that grey area with my characters. I learned from rock ‘n’ rollers that the truth is always in the grey, and I learned to spot it really quick.

My favorite bands? I’m really just so eclectic, meaning that I listen to all kinds of stuff. When I was in the biz, I worked with mainly heavy metal and punk rock bands, but I was raised on 70’s classic rock and folk music. My grandma loved big band and jazz. Now, I hop around a lot. Right now, believe it or not, I’m on a My Chemical Romance vs. 40’s and 50’s standards kick. Like for real. I’ll finish with The Black Parade and flip over to a Tony Bennett mix CD, and then I’ll go to Danger Days, and then pop over to Perry Como. I’m weird like that. But my heart is with punk rock. I mean, I’m old enough to say that I was alive when Sid Vicious was still around, but I really like some of the modern stuff. Cellabration is fabulous. This morning I listened to Stomachache and then put on Mel Torme. Like I said … eclectic. In fact, that may be an understatement.

Q. I would ask you to create a playlist for me, but I’m afraid my head would explode. Which reminds me … Your work has been described as “edgy.” Does this reflect your personality, or does the edginess come from a different place when you write?

A. I get that constantly! I ask the people who know me well to tell me why, and they say it’s because I tell the truth about things I’m not supposed to be talking about in the first place. If that’s edgy, then I definitely am, especially in what I write. I’m certainly not obnoxious, but I tend not to pull punches. If there’s a story to tell, it’s probably got some dirt and grit on it, and I don’t shy away from exposing it. Besides, dirt and grit makes things interesting and once you wash it off, then you can see whatever beautiful was beneath it. And I’m always looking for beauty, especially below the surface.

Q. I’m with you there. Sometimes, the most imperfect people make the best characters. What are the one or two things you would like readers to come away after finishing Lights of Polaris?

A. Well, with Lights of Polaris it was my goal to show what happens to a woman after she makes the decision to leave behind what’s making her unhappy, and does it. The truth is that many people walk around this world nearly dead inside, and only a few get to the point where the fight-or-flight reflex kicks in. Daisy Cade, the pivotal character in the book, desperately wants to live a life and not just survive her situation. So she does what society perceives as the “wrong thing to do” and—more or less—she runs like hell. From her job, from her home, from her relationship … from a life that was killing her. She throws herself at the mercy of her family for solace.

And then I wanted to show how even those who love us most and whom we trust can be doubting and judgmental about that kind of decision, and how society ridicules a woman who is being true to herself. I wanted to show how lives intertwine, too, so there are a couple of plots running through the book to reflect the intricacies of how one life affects another. And, lastly, how life itself can come screaming at us from out of nowhere when we least expect it, and aren’t even ready for it, and can offer us the things we most desperately want and need. It often happens at the worst possible times—when we are under the microscope of a society of people who mostly never had the courage to do what we have done.

So, in the end what I want people to walk away with is a sense of hope and the belief that you can go about your life in the oddest, most misunderstood way, and that if you’re true to yourself you can find your way to someplace livable, where you can breathe, relax the muscles in your neck and shoulders, and just be free. Because it is possible, and I have learned that there are more possibilities in this world than limitations if you accept them, have the courage to leap, and reject the notion of failure.

Q. Well put. Can you talk about what you are working on now?

A. I don’t really like to talk about upcoming projects, but I will say that I’m extremely excited about the one I’m working on. And I will tell you that it’s likely to be a book series in a genre that I have never written in before. But it will have guts and soul. And I will tell the truth like I always do, so it’s bound to be “edgy.” I don’t think there will ever be an escape from that for me.

Book Blurb

[Lights of Polaris Cover]

ENTER THE LIGHTS OF POLARIS GIVEAWAY

Throughout her life, Daisy Cade was a free spirit who tried to fit in, but her struggle to conform was futile. And it was suffocating her. Desperate for air, she would pack up and run, often leaving chaos in her wake. At the age of thirty, weary of being labeled a “wild child,” she descended into a loveless relationship with a man who targeted her with his insidious mental cruelty – a psychological abuse so overwhelming, it threatened her sanity.

On her thirty-fifth birthday, she fled that life, too.

She returned home to Chicago, safe in the refuge of her famous brother’s house, but reeling from the fallout of her latest breakup. What she didn’t expect was for her life to collide with Stuart Adkins, whose piercing blue eyes could see right through her and understand more than she wanted him to know.

An enigmatic woman on the edge. A devoted, but meddling family. An angry ex, hell-bent on payback, and a handsome Irish singer with a troubled past. Only one thing is certain: Daisy Cade’s future is arriving like a train that’s jumped the tracks.

Where to Buy
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About the Author
[Melodie Ramone]First published in literary magazines at the age of twelve, Melodie Ramone is a lifelong writer from the city of Chicago, Illinois.

“Words, words. Pens. Ink. It’s always been this way with me. Sometimes my fingertips get sore and sometimes I go blind, but I’m never happier than when I’m writing or have my nose shoved in a book. I get cranky when I don’t have something to create or feed to my brain.” A lifelong lover of music, she worked in the public relations sector of the music industry from the age of sixteen to twenty-four.

She is now settled into a four-bedroom house on a shady street in Central Illinois and spends her time as a full-time novelist, Certified Kitchen Witch, mother, public speaker, event organizer, stray cat rescue advocate, and community activist.

You can find Melodie on Twitter and at Author Melodie Ramone.

‘Crimson Peak’—A Movie for Another Time

[Crimson Peak Poster]

Photo Courtesy of IMDb

Crimson Peak’ (2015)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins
Drama | Fantasy | Horror | Mystery | Romance | Thriller
Stars Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston
Universal
Rated R
Log Line: In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds—and remembers.

Don’t get me wrong—I liked this movie from the great Guillermo del Toro, a filmmaker I have admired since his amazing ‘Pan’s Labyrinth.’ And similar to that film, ‘Crimson Peak’ is beautifully crafted, like the china teacup Lucille uses to serve Edith her questionable tea. Unlike del Toro’s earlier effort, though, this movie felt distant and terribly formal to me—the Noble Style vs. a rollicking square dance. And, speaking of dances, there was no better scene to illustrate this aloofness than the one in which Thomas waltzes with Edith in front of her father.

There’s Horror and There’s HORROR
To me, the best horror is visceral, not mannered. Referring back to the Hollywood classics of the 1930s, ‘Crimson Peak’ felt closer to ‘Wuthering Heights’ than ‘Frankenstein.’ Sure, we get to see abominable CG apparitions, but even they are distant. They never really engage with Edith in a way that would induce sheer terror in a cultured young woman. Of course, I realize they are there to warn her, rather than scare her. But still … By now, movie audiences have been exposed to such fare as ‘Saw,’ ‘The Human Centipede’ and ‘House of 1000 Corpses.’ Pretty hardcore stuff, don’t you think? To my way of thinking, resurrecting gothic horror was a bit of a risk for everyone involved. Why did they do it?

That Damned Red Clay
I’ve seen a lot of horror movie devices over the years, but never clay. Usually, desolate places like Cumberland are filled with moors floating in a dense white mist. But clay? This didn’t really work for me. Sure, it was red and resembled blood, but …. They never really did anything with it—even when they had their chance in the cellar, which held huge wooden vats of the stuff. Maybe those scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. And as long as we’re talking about missed opportunities, what about Edith’s so-called writing? She managed to bang out one story and never really writes another word during the rest of the film. Okay, the movie is not about her writing, but the story would have worked just as well without it.

The Audience Has Spoken
‘Crimson Peak’ did not do well at the box office. As of this writing, it has earned $75M worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo, with a production budget of $55M. Compare that to Warner Bros.’ 2013 hit ‘The Conjuring,’ which to date has grossed $318M worldwide, with a production budget of $20M. To me, ‘Crimson Peak’ was a movie for another audience in another time.

In the trailer, the quote “Gorgeous and terrifying—it electrified me” is attributed to Stephen King. Terrifying? Really? Come on, Steve. I can’t imagine that anything short of an alligator chewing your fingers off one at a time would be terrifying to you. And certainly not this movie. Disturbing, yes—especially concerning the twisted relationship between Thomas and Lucille. Henry James would be proud. As I said, I liked ‘Crimson Peak’ but, sadly, I went into the thing wanting to love it.

SORROW’S POINT—Once a Priest, Always a Priest

Let me start by saying that I am a huge fan of The Exorcist—both the novel and the movie. Also, I am Catholic which, I suppose, is why stories about exorcism resonate so well with me. Now, I’ve read Danielle DeVor’s work before and, when I began Sorrow’s Point, I was pretty sure she wouldn’t be telling me a story I already knew. While The Exorcist concerns a Catholic priest suffering serious doubts about his faith, her novel is about a priest who had been “laicized”—that is, he returned to the laity (“defrocked” has no meaning in the Catholic Church, by the way).

“Once a priest, always a priest” is a universal truth. In Jimmy Holiday’s case, it’s especially important, because a friend is pleading with him to help his young daughter, Lucy, who may be exhibiting signs of being possessed. I won’t provide any spoilers, but I will tell you that the house where Lucy lives is not nice. In fact, it is downright hellish. I mean, seriously. Would you live in a place called “Blackmoor”? Yeah, me neither.

Teaming up with an old girlfriend, Jimmy will be calling on supernatural powers other than those found in the Rite of Exorcism to help Lucy. And in doing so, he will discover a frightening, life-changing truth about himself. If you enjoy supernatural stories of the demonic variety, you will love this book.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Blurb

[Sorrow's Point Cover]

Not All Exorcists are Equal….One is Marked

When defrocked ex-priest, Jimmy Holiday, agrees to help an old friend with his sick daughter, he doesn’t expect the horrors that await him. Blackmoor, his friend’s new residence, rests upon the outskirts of the town of Sorrow’s Point. The mansion’s history of magic, mayhem, and death makes it almost a living thing – a haunted mansion straight out of a Stephen King novel. Jimmy must decide if the young girl, Lucy, is only ill, or if the haunting of the house and her apparent possession are real.

After the house appears to affect him as well with colors of magic dancing before his eyes, rooms warded by a witch, and a ring of power in his voice, Jimmy is met by a transient who tells him he has “the Mark”. Whatever being “marked” means, Jimmy doesn’t care. All he wants to do is help Lucy. But, helping Lucy means performing an exorcism.

Where to Buy
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

More Reviews
Did you enjoy this review? Check out my other Amazon reviews here.

I Used to Write Poetry

[Hésiode et la Muse]

Eugène Delacroix – Hésiode et la Muse (Wikimedia Commons)

My Muse

My Muse visited me last night
Gliding ephemeral on a filmy shroud
Of fireflies and quiet light,
Her bosom a secret wanting
Prayer that begs for transgression.

I offered her a simple country dinner
But she would not eat.
Enamored and bashful as I was
I gave her dark wine to drink but
She only touched the glass to her lips and smiled.

As my heart melted in thoughts of precious perfect Love,
I wrote more furious than Wagner killing Isolde
In a crescendo of lush lost Hope.
“Write more and better,” was all she said
Betraying no emotion except for that damned smile.

When my Muse left me I fell exhausted on the floor,
Papers floating ethereally—heavy with meaning.
My cat was licking my eyebrows
So that I would give her a simple rustic dinner
And perhaps a glass of rich dark wine.

DEAD IS ALL YOU GET Is Free for Five Days!

[DIAYG 3D Cover (Small)]Dead Is All You Get (Book Two of TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD) is free for download at Amazon March 23rd through the 27th, 2016. If you haven’t purchased Book Two yet, now’s your chance to grab it for free. Visit this link starting today and download the book to your Kindle.

 

 

Book Blurb
After months of fighting the undead ravaging the town of Tres Marias, Dave Pulaski and his wife, Holly, catch a break when Black Dragon Security suddenly shows up to rescue them. But things are about to get worse. The virus is mutating. Now, driven to discover the truth behind the contagion while struggling to protect Holly and those closest to him, Dave is pushed beyond the limits of faith and reason.

Dead Is All You Get (Book Two of TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD) combines the best elements of horror, dark fantasy and sci-fi, taking the reader on a relentless, tortured journey of survival that tests the strength of one man’s character and delves into the role Faith plays when he is confronted by the worst kind of evil—the evil in humans. If you like your thrillers dark and fast-paced, then read this mind-blowing sequel. And leave the lights on. “A shoot first then shoot again horror thriller of the highest order” (Simon Oneill)

Tell Me When I’m Dead
And if you haven’t read the series at all, note that Book One is always free. You can download it using the following links:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Kobo
Overdrive
Smashwords

Happy reading!