Thursday, November 26, 2009

What do YOU want to read?

Yeah, it seems like a simple question, but is it really?

Honestly, I never know what book on the shelf is going to catch my eye until it actually does, and from that moment on, it's a challenge for the writer to get my attention and keep hold of it, until I've read every page from the first to the last.

I'm usually - though not always - in the "Fiction" section of the bookshop when I find what I'm looking for.

But - according to the "major" publishers, anyway - there is the question of genre to consider. What genre am I looking for when I stroll through a new bookshop? Mystery? Romance? Humor? Sci-Fi? Fantasy? Horror? Historical Fiction?

Um, yes please! All the above, and more, actually.

Then again, if you ask me what I like to read, I'd say "Fiction." That's it. "Fiction." If you ask me what genres I read, I'd say "Just about anything." And then, in direct contradiction, if you asked what I *don't* read, I'd say "Horror, Mystery, Romance and Thrillers."

And yet, I just finished a mystery written by my friend Jason Horger called Whom Must I Kill to Get Published?, and I found it highly entertaining. To be fair, however, I had read some of this when it was a manuscript, a mere work in progress. I liked it then, too. Now it's a published novel, available from my own future publisher, Dragon International Independent Arts.

But I don't like mysteries.

And my shelf is full of Stephen King's work, from Carrie to the Dark Tower series to Just After Sunset.

But I don't read horror.

Now, if you ask me what I write, I'll likely say "Contemporary Fiction." Or, if I'm really identifying with my female characters, I might say "Women's Fiction."

However, if you ask my mates, they'll probably tell you I write "Romance."

And oh, Lord, how I shudder at the thought of that. Or more accurately, I shudder at the thought of being lumped in with all the misconceptions about that particular genre. The snide, needless snobbishness toward Romance and romance writers is remarkable.

Which isn't to say romance isn't in my stories. That's in there, yes... My characters are often couples who meet and fall in love and seek to overcome obstacles in order to be together. And no, the road doesn't run smoothly while they're heading that way.

But do I write Romance? No.

Do I read Romance? No.

Do I think Romance - in the genre sense - is somehow beneath me? Absolutely not. It's just not my cup of tea. Not exactly.

While I don't write Romance, I'm a member of the online writers' group Romance Divas. I've learned more about the craft of writing since I joined them almost two years ago than I have in all the years before I found them. They're some of the most intelligent, good-humored and supportive individuals I've ever met.

And lest you think they're a group of writers patting one another on the back and saying "Well done, you!" without merit, let me tell you this: they couldn't be farther from that if they tried. If I need honest criticism, if I need a kick in the pants to get going on a project, if I need, well, anything at all - that's where I can go to find it.

Not to mention I've found some remarkable writers there. I've turned my mother on to a few of their books, and she's enjoyed them immensely (and she is NOT easily impressed, believe me).

On some level, though, I'm endlessly fascinated by people in spite of my public proclamations that I don't care for humans in general. And the twists and turns and manipulations and contortions we put ourselves and others through in order to reach our goals in life - romantic or otherwise - are compelling stuff.

But if a story - any story - is well-written, the characters are well-developed, and the writer is able to make me care about what's happening on the page, I'll pick it up and read it.

From beginning to end. Front cover to back. Dedications to acknowledgments. Regardless of genre.

I hope that I can make readers feel the same way with my own work, soon.

Fingers crossed!

And I turn the question back out into the world:

What do YOU want to read?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

From the Top to the Bottom, In Short Order

My family dynamic, in a nutshell. Heh.

No sooner did I post my good news about my acceptance for publication than the bad news hit:

My stepfather Martin passed away on the evening of November 16th. Needless to say, I was devastated by this news, as were the many, many people who cared for him.

As I write this, my mother is on her way to Kentucky for the second of three memorial services to be held for him. The third will be in Florida in mid-December. I will be traveling home to accompany her and my brother and sister for this final farewell.

Martin Riley meant a lot to me. When my parents split, he became my second father - at first through marriage to my mother, and then by taking on the role of fatherhood in my life when my real father and I grew apart.

Although in time I mended my broken ties with my real father, and at the time of his passing last April I felt we had finally come to understand and love each other better than we had in years, Martin remained as much of a "Dad" as I'd ever known.

Martin was the man who taught me to drive, who helped me get my first (and second) car, who performed my first wedding and who really understood my Agnostic views for the form of spirituality they actually are. I can't say that about everyone.

This was significant because, you see, Martin was a pastor in the Methodist Church for as long as I knew him. In spite of having been raised Methodist myself, I do not believe in organized religion. I don't have anything against those who do, though, and Martin - unlike many others, some of them in his own parishes - understood why I feel this way. People like Martin are types I admire. People of faith who live their lives according to their faith, and don't try to force the issue of their religion on those who worship differently.

I admire people of all faiths - regardless - as long as they don't try to forcibly convince me I need to be like them. Martin never did that. Sure, there was some poking and prodding, early on. After all, in my younger years, I was quite the fervent follower. Until I grew disillusioned by the politics and polemics I saw first hand in the church. Until I was hurt emotionally by those I turned to in the church, asking them questions they couldn't answer.

Martin and I often had discussions/arguments about politics, about religion, about all sorts of subjects. Frequently we arrived at our own conclusions and we agreed to disagree. But never once did he tell me I was wrong for believing as I do.

He was one of the few who really "got" it. In many ways - as much as I hate to say it, even now - he really "got" me, too.

And now I've lost my sparring partner.

I've lost the man I thought would take care of my mother, and who would guide me and my loved ones as he had for so many years. I've lost the man who I loved so much, even when he was annoying the ever-loving crap out of me.

I didn't think he'd be around forever, but I thought he'd be around a while longer, at least.

I was wrong.

I know he knows, though. I know he knows I miss him. I know he knows I loved him, and I still do love him.

I know he knows I'm sorry, and I know that he forgives me.

I just hope he knows how glad I am he understood me.

At last.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A New Title and a New Direction

After a long, long while, I'm back. My last post on here was back in February of 2009, and a lot has happened since then. My father passed away in April, there was much family drama in the aftermath, and my day job work schedule dropped down to virtually "nil."

In the Summer I went to the US for a couple of months to see family and friends and to generally "recharge my batteries." I also got to go through many of my father's things and sort out a few special keepsakes for myself.

While in the US, I also finished the first draft of my Italian "epic." All of the titles mentioned within this blog have been consolidated into one novel: "Alternate Rialto", "Connections", "Un Romantico a Milano" and "Bentornata a Bologna" have become "Ask Me if I'm Happy." The title in Italian would be "Chiedimi se Sono Felice" and is shared with a film by Aldo, Giovanni e Giacomo as well as a song by Samuele Bersani - both of which I adore. The film and the song, I mean.

This labor of love was officially completed in October, and has been accepted for publication by Dragon International Independent Arts - - in Spring or Summer of 2010. This is a brand-new publishing company, and judging by some of the titles they've launched this past weekend, I'm going to be in pretty darn good company.

Yes, I'm excited, to say the least. I've got my fingers crossed and I'm knocking on wood (ouch!) that all will go well. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, however, I'm already at work on a new project.

"27 Stages" is set in the world of professional road cycling, taking place during the (fictional) Tour d'Europa.

Federico Renard is a young rising champion in the sport, struggling with personal difficulties, team politics and emotional conflicts while racing in the Tour. Abigail McGann-White is a married aspiring photographer dealing with the slow disintegration of her marriage while she follows the Tour on a speculative assignment. When she and Federico meet, sparks fly at first sight.

Kept at arm's length from one another by the rules dictating how he may spend his free time, as well as her marital status, Federico and Abigail are nonetheless drawn to one another. As he comes to depend on her stability and the sense of safety she imparts to him, and she becomes comfortable with her new found awareness of her own sexuality, the barriers between them begin to crumble.

If he is caught, he'll lose his best chance to win the Royal - the ultimate prize for the overall winner of the Tour - because he'll lose his position on the team.

If she succumbs to her desire for this younger man, her marriage will come to an end - but is it really worth saving, anyway?

The answers lie along the Tour's route, emerging day by day within each of the 27 Stages.

More to come at a later date!