Hubby and I sat down this morning to watch a movie together. We have cut the cable, but we have Netflix, Amazon, and a few other streaming services that work just fine and dandy. I wasn’t feeling so great, and my only stipulation was “nothing too serious.”
Zombies. Not just zombies, but Arnold Schwarzenegger and zombies!
What follows is a spoiler for the 2015 movie Maggie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin. In order to give you a chance to avoid the spoiler, I will post a bit of shameless self-promo before it.
It was a good movie. However it was not anything I would expect from Arnold or any zombie flick. The main premise is that his daughter is dying from a horrible disease (becoming a zombie) and he stays by her side until the end. It was a moving and well-acted story. It did not fulfill my requirement of “not too serious.”
I do not feel that the promise of the story was broken. The cover is serious, and the blurb accurately reflects what the movie is about. It was my assumption that “zombies” meant “fun” and “Schwarzenegger” equated to “action flick.”
I was wrong.
As a writer, I am very conscious of the promise I make my readers. I have a separate pseudonym (AmyBeth Drumnadrochit) for my children’s books, which are on the shelf and will be for a while. I do that so readers will not be confused whether a particular story of mine is for kids or adults. I promise, if AmyBeth Drumnadrochit is listed as the author, the story will be appropriate for children.
Writing romance, the author must promise that the characters will get a Happily Ever After (HEA) or a Happily For Now (HFN) at the end of the story. Without this, the story by definition is not a romance. Within the romance genre, many authors have a reputation either for writing sweet stories that barely mention sex, or a reputation for writing steamy, sexual stories. A novel can get pretty darn spicy without ever crossing the line to erotica.
The lines drawn in speculative fiction are not nearly so defined. Many readers do make very rigid distinctions between hard scifi and soft scifi, or between scifi and fantasy. It is the source of great conflict within the community. If a story claims to be straight science fiction, but halfway through it is revealed that the main character is a were-wolf (oh, I hope that doesn’t actually exist… I just made that up…) that breaks the promise of plausible science and puts the story into the paranormal category.
I learned a long time ago that I can’t do it all. I can’t be an architectural engineer who moonlights as a travel writer and hops around the world while homeschooling a precocious eight-year-old and a teenager with special needs. Even just within the writing world, it is tempting to take too big a bite and end up choking. This is the main reason my children’s books are on the shelf.
I write speculative fiction and romance, often entwined. SciFi/Rom in itself is a very popular genre. I have published erotica, women’s fiction, urban fantasy, and scifi.
I love it all.
The promise to my readers is at the front of my mind. In The Cities of Luna, I promise to keep the science plausible and the content family-friendly. Some of the stories could accurately be categorized as romance or women’s fiction. The series as a whole is science fiction.
In the Kingdom Come novels, I promise steamy stories where the sexual relationship between the characters is relevant to the plot, but does not cross the line into erotica.
I have waffled regarding the heat level in Pangalactic Sojourners, my inspirational LGBTQ romances. I think I will settle on the sweet side with just a little bit of steam.
My biggest challenge, regarding a promise to readers, is my steampunk series Victoria Pontifex. These began as and remain primarily romances. But one story…the one that ties them all together… has a significant feel of adventure. The romance element is strong, though. Enough to keep it categorized primarily as such.
In addition to promises made to readers, authors make promises to themselves and their loved ones. I promised my hubby that I would “do something” with my writing, taking it seriously as a career. I promise myself I will finish the projects I decide to put my energy into, although sometimes the decision is made to put something on the shelf.
Publishers have a list of contractual promises they make to the author. However, one promise that is rarely if ever made is that the publisher will promote the book and keep it on shelves long enough for readers to discover it. Unfortunately, in today’s market for books, movies, and all sorts of entertainment, if the product does not immediately show a significant profit, it is often pulled before it even has a chance.
Look at Firefly. A cult phenomenon and one of my favorite series… but it only had one season. Although I am an avid fan of scifi on TV, I didn’t even know it existed until a friend loaned me the DVD set.
I want a career that combines self-publishing with traditional publishing. Since my lovely publisher closed their doors, I am transitioning The Cities of Luna to self-pub. Lillie Lane, my urban fantasy series, has been and will continue to be self-pub. The Kingdom Come novels are out on query. Ideally I will find an agent, the agent will find a publisher, and I’ll be able to publish the stories and write even more. I’d like the same for Victoria Pontifex. Pangalactic Sojourners, however, is a different kind of beast. Combining LGBTQ romance with inspirational stories fills a much-needed niche, but it’s a pretty darn small niche at the moment. Still, I believe in the stories and I want to see them come to light. I may choose the self-pub option for these so they have the chance to be discovered by the readers that will enjoy them the most.
With ROW80, I renew a promise to myself to move forward in my writing career. With each round, I redefine my goals. These last two rounds, my attention has necessarily been on the move from Vermont to Colorado. I have the rest of May and all of June to make firm decisions regarding where I put my energy next. Of course, I’ll continue to put out another story in The Cities of Luna with every full moon. Everything else, however, is up for debate.
At the moment, I think I’ll look at finishing The Beekeeper’s Mother, the next book in Lillie Lane. These stories are novella length, and since I’m self-pubbing, I can make definite plans regarding release dates. Next, I’m leaning toward Victoria Pontifex. I need to work on the overall story arc, but once that is done and the first novel is polished, I can start seeking representation. Pangalactic Sojourners requires more work than the others because, although it is set in present-day, it requires more world-building. A lot of huge changes have occurred in the LGBTQ community in the past few years, and I want my stories to reflect that. I need to choose what years the stories take place and how they overlap.
A couple of questions for my fellow ROWers…
What promise have you made your readers?
What promise have you made yourself?
Hard to go wring with zombies. Even serious zombies.
Genre promises are something I’ve grappled with over the past year. I love romance, but most of the stories I write end up as fantasy with strong romantic element. But since I love fantasy, too, I’m definitely okay with that. I’m just glad I’ve realized the genre that fits my stories best before I started self-publishing. It feels like a good fit. Good luck with everything you’re working on!
Thanks Denise! “Fantasy with a strong romantic element” is good for me too!