Seeking a Genre

I’ve had a difficult time lately trying to figure out what kind of writer I am. Do I write horror? Am I a scifi writer? What about fantasy? Does it even freaking matter?

I’m not sure what’s prompting me to pigeon-hole myself to a particular genre or not, however maybe it’s best if I gravitate toward something. The phrase “Jack of all trades and master of none” keeps coming back to me.

Of all three genres, I think the one that I most identify with is horror. It’s what I’ve read the most, watched the most, and what interests me the most.

I don’t feel I have the credentials to call myself a scifi or even a fantasy writer, though my background in medieval history does give me a foundation for the kind of fantasy I enjoy. I’ve not read many of the scifi classics. I have tried to navigate my way through some of the mainstays of the genre to have a working knowledge of what’s been done before and the major players in the field. Still, it doesn’t feel like I’ve “paid my dues” and learned enough about previous authors to jump into their genre. Does watching a lot of scifi shows count? I don’t know. Maybe? Do I have to have those works read in order to write my own stories?

thinker-1294493_1280I imagine purists would scoff at the idea of someone with a basic knowledge of science fiction calling themselves a scifi writer. I kinda agree. Start throwing questions at me about Heinlein or Asimov, I might give you a blank stare and change the subject.

Same goes for fantasy. I know a few pillars of the genre, but I’ve not read many of them. My first real introduction to fantasy was through Robert Jordan and I know there were many before him like Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Terry Pratchett and more. I love fantasy for the idealized medieval worlds they tend to portray (and yes, I’m aware of the Euro-centric bent of most fantasy) though I’ve not read extensively in the genre. Do I have to in order to call myself a fantasy writer?

When it comes to horror, I do have a greater background through reading and movies than the other two genres I gravitate toward. King, Barker, Jackson, Oates, Ramsey Campbell, and countless other authors have all been my go-to authors when I want something to read. I love the dark themes and ability of authors to scare the crap out of me. I feel much more confident calling myself a horror writer though to date, I’ve not written much more than several flash fiction and short stories in the genre.

So why question all of this? What’s the point?

skull-3026666_1920As I continue to grow my readership and reach out to new readers, I don’t want to confuse them. I love using elements from all three genres in my writing. One day I feel more like writing fantasy, while another I want dark, scary horror. I don’t want to be forced into a genre I’m not entirely 100% all in on (or at least don’t feel like I belong because of a lack of rudimentary knowledge of the field.) Yet, readers and especially other authors want to know “what do you write?” Damn good stories? I mean, that’s how I want to answer.

Lately I’ve come to use the term “Speculative Fiction Author” to describe what I write. It’s a term not without its drawbacks and controversy, though for the most part, it encompasses all that I enjoy writing. It allows me the freedom to flow between genres without feeling stuck or unable to try something else. It’s like when King wrote the Dark Tower books. He’s known as one of the most popular horror authors ever, yet he wrote a fantasy series. Of course, it sold because his name is on the cover, but in my case, I have a long way to go to establish my name. If I call myself a “Speculative Fiction Author,” readers generally understand I genre-hop and can pick and choose what stories of mine to read.

If I take a big step back, this entire discussion about genre really is all about marketing anyway. When bookstores sell books, they need to know where to put books to make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for. When Amazon categorizes books, they get down to fine detail about the genre. It all goes back to marketing: How do we sell this book? Who is the market for this one? Have a monster in it? Good, call it horror. Is the protagonist a seventeen year-old girl? Call it young adult. It makes it easier for readers to discern what to buy and not buy. I get it.

The more I can figure out who I am as a writer, the easier it’ll be for me to market myself. If I claim “Speculative Fiction Author” as my title, then I’m open to marketing myself in all three of the genres I enjoy depending on the books I’m writing at the time. It’s not that I’m chasing the latest trends, but writing stories I enjoy and hope others will too. I don’t even know what the latest trends are! Reverse harem? Who knows!

I hope to figure this out soon. I’d like to sell a few books and begin making a profit off my work. I haven’t yet, however I have earned a few new readers in the process.

 

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Behind the Forgotten Chronicles

With the conclusion of my young adult scifi series The Forgotten Chronicles, I wanted to take a moment and share the process for how it came to be.

When I wrote the first book, The Selection, I kinda hoped to write several books but I wasn’t sure how it would be received or if anyone would care. I knew the story was interesting and action-packed, but I had no idea if it would lead to anything.

The way I write longer pieces, I have a tendency to leave the ending somewhat open for another installment if I feel it deserves it and if readers ask for more. It might not be the best way to write, but as a novice with little recognition, that’s how I thought (I’ve since changed my approach, but that’s how it was when I wrote The Selection.)

THE FORGOTTEN CHRONICLESTRILOGYAfter its release, I was surprised by the reaction for The Selection. By and large, most readers enjoyed the story and were awesome about sharing that through reviews or connecting with me on social media.

It wasn’t until about a month after its release that I decided to write a follow up novel. That was also when I decided to make it a trilogy (I mean, it worked for Star Wars!) I started writing in early May of 2017 and by November, I had a fairly clean and polished story ready for release with book 2, Rise of the Forgotten. It came out in January of 2018.

Before the release of book 2, I had already started book 3.

I kinda knew how I wanted it to end and did a bit of planning to make sure The War for Truth was a satisfying conclusion to the series.

It’s been an educational journey as I went from “Hey, read my book The Selection” to a finished trilogy.

I never wanted to write a YA series. I wanted a book for my son written by me. What I found out was the story worked for others and they were eager to find out more about the world introduced in The Selection. I can’t even explain how amazing it felt knowing someone else cared about what I created.

I hope you were one of the many readers who took a chance on me. If not, no worries. Maybe one day you’ll give it a try. Until then, feel free to ask me anything about the process or how it came together. I’d love to share more with you.

Thanks!

 

New Release: The War for Truth

PrintThis week sees the release of my latest novel The War for Truth on Thursday May 10th. With this book, I conclude my Forgotten Chronicles trilogy. If you’ve read the first book in the series, The Selection, now is a great time to pick up books 2 and 3 (especially since book 3 is on a special pre-order price of only .99!)

I’m thrilled to share this strange and dangerous world with you and hope you find enjoyment in the series. It was a series that I created with my son in mind. I wanted to write something he’d enjoy and so far, I’ve nailed my audience! Having new readers discover the books has been amazing and humbles me. To know someone who doesn’t know me personally has enjoyed a story I wrote means so much to me.

 

Book 1, The Selection, is available for $1.99 in ebook form or you can get it as part of the 22 novel collection On the Horizon for only .99. Book 2, Rise of the Forgotten, can be yours for $2.99 in ebook.

Both are also available as an audiobook narrated by Paul Jenkins (he’s currently working on book 3 for a June release!) Grab The Selection or Rise of the Forgotten from Audible, iTunes, or Amazon.

Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement!

 

Behind The Story

Not many readers know I like to hide surprises in my writing. I want to share one of those with you today.

 

My young adult scifi series “The Forgotten Chronicles” is set on an alien world similar to ours yet orbiting a red sun. I based it off of a NASA travel poster released several years ago for the planet Kepler 186f. I wanted an Earth-like world where readers were familiar enough with how it worked yet still completely alien. If you’ve read The Selection or the follow-up book Rise of the Forgotten, you know what I mean.

What hardly anyone knows is they may have read a story about this series before it was ever released. I had it hiding in plain sight.

I honestly didn’t know if The Selection would ever see publication. I enjoyed the story but still wasn’t sure if I was going to put the time and effort (and money!) into making it a novel I wanted to release. I wrote the book leaving the ending in a way that if enough readers enjoyed it, I could continue the series. As it happened, many readers loved the book and that gave me the impetus I needed to write Rise of the Forgotten. The final book in the series, The War for Truth, is due out in May (and can be pre-ordered for the ridiculously low price of .99. Go here to get it: The War for Truth)

However, one of the questions I often get asked is why are there so many boys born on the planet Anastasia? What causes this? Why does it happen?

AlmostAs an origin story mostly for myself, I wrote a short story called The Long Sleep which answers these questions. If you’ve read any of my short story collections, you may recognize it. I released it in my first ever book, (Almost) Average Anthology, back in 2016. It was the last story in the collection and gives a great explanation as to how things got to be in The Selection.

I released (Almost) Average Anthology in Jan. of 2016, well over a year before I released The Selection. The story The Long Sleep isn’t my favorite of the collection, but it most certainly belongs with my series as an origin story.

So, for fans who like to know behind the scenes info, there ya go. You can get the entire 16 story collection (Almost) Average Anthology for .99 or if you subscribe to my newsletter, you get it for FREE. Either way, I hope you enjoy the dark tales and I hope you continue to follow along with my scifi series. It’s been so much fun to write and the reader response has been amazing.


For those interested in the series, here are the links.

The Selection: ebook, paperback, audiobook.

Rise of the Forgotten: ebook, paperback.

The War for Truth: ebook (special low pre-order price)

 

Book Review: Dark Hollow Road

I was so excited to get my hands on the newest novel from Pamela Morris. Want to know what I thought? Read on for my review!


Pamela Morris’ latest novel Dark Hollow Road is a psychological horror story that grips you from the start.

The novel follows Mary Alice Brown who we’re introduced to early on as the oldest of four children. They live with their abusive and alcoholic father Clay Brown in rural Pennsylvania. The poor family lives far away from outsiders and sticks to their own.

DarkHollowWhen we first meet Mary, we find she’s the victim of abuse at the hands of her father and this sets the dark, eerie tone for the entire novel. Mary comes across as both victim and monster (as the story progresses) and it’s not hard to sympathize with her plight. I loathed her while wanting to help her. Mary fights for everything she has and wants nothing more than to have her family whole. This passion drives her to do what she does though the madness consumes her.

We’re also introduced to a family that moves in next door. Renee, her son Brandon, and her partner Samantha find a house near the old Brown house and soon experience weird situations, culminating with a visit from the Sugar Lady. Contrary to her sweet name, the Sugar Lady is not someone you want to meet.

One of the unique aspects of Dark Hollow Road is the alternating view points. The chapters from Mary’s point of view are in first person and the chapters dealing with Renee’s son Brandon are in third person. Pamela handles this back and forth with great skill and the chapters are fluid and entertaining.

The overall tone of the novel is dark and foreboding. The abuse Mary suffers early in life dominates everything she does. She’s so wrapped up in preserving her family she doesn’t realize how she’s destroying it herself.

I absolutely loved this book! The characters were well crafted and believable. The setting was perfect for the story. The tone and pace were spot on. Do yourself a favor, if you like creepy psychological horror that makes you squirm, try Dark Hollow Road by Pamela Morris.

Self-Doubt Sucks

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know I’ve been kinda down on myself the past few weeks. I’m not normally one to share a lot of personal info (like do you really care that I ate nothing but fruit for breakfast or how work is going?) however I did take the time to share how discouraged I’ve been with my writing.

depression-2912424_960_720Like most writers or creatives, I doubted myself and my skills. I doubted if I should even continue writing. It’s not like many people are reading it! But an amazing thing happened.

I had support.

By sharing my doubts about my craft, many others (maybe even you!) stepped in and told me to slow my roll. You encouraged me to continue what I’m doing because I do indeed have a tiniest clue as to what I’m doing. I do not suck as bad as I thought I did.

I think I go through this mentality about once a year or more. When it passes, I blissfully continue what I’m doing and spend my time writing new stories that will one day entertain and delight readers.

I’d love to make writing a full-time paying gig, but for now it’s not there yet. It may never be, but with encouragement from those brave enough to try my work and like it, I know I’ve got support from those who truly care about the next adventure I write.

It helped me so much to see how many people believed in me. I don’t like sharing my doubts because I don’t want others to see my weakness. I don’t want them to pity me. I have a hard time accepting help and encouragement, a trait I know is not the best. But sometimes, it just needs to come out.

If you’re experiencing something like this, I’m here to talk if you need it.

Guest Post: Simon Bleaken

Hi there, my name is Simon Bleaken and Jason has very kindly given me the chance to say a few words on his blog. Firstly I thought I’d tell you a little bit about myself, and then I’d like to share an excerpt from a work in progress.

EldritchI live in the UK and write in the horror, sci-fi and fantasy genres. I’ve had work appear in Tales of the Talisman, Lovecraft’s Disciples, Strange Sorcery and in several anthologies including Eldritch Embraces and Space Horrors: Full Throttle Space Tales #4.

Last year I brought out my first collection of short stories A Touch of Silence and Other Tales, and I am currently working on a second collection, which I hope to release later this year.

My biggest influences have to be my favourite authors, among them: Stephen King, Clark Ashton Smith, H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. I am in awe of the worlds those guys built. I’ve always found the boundaries between sci-fi and fantasy often merge with the horror genre, and I’ve never tried to restrict myself to either – but to tell the story that needs to be told.

SilenceBy day I work for an Infection Control Team in a hospital, and it’s a job that keeps me pretty busy – but I always try and make time for writing in the evenings all the same. It was this job, and my constant promise to my colleagues to ‘write an infection control horror story’ that was the origin of the idea for the excerpt of my work-in-progress I’d like to share with you now. This story is planned for inclusion in my forthcoming collection, and is about a survey team who encounter a deadly infection on an alien world. The idea was – what if the disease was utterly deadly, but the cure was utterly unthinkable?


The shovel scraped metal. I froze, crouching in the dirt down inside the grave pit. My heart was racing, and despite the cool breeze coming up from the valley below I was dripping in sweat, my sodden shirt clinging to my skin. I sucked in a shivering breath, fighting the dizziness creeping through my body. I wanted to curl up in a small corner somewhere, to close my aching eyes and sleep. But to do that would be to die.

The fever had started an hour ago, a steady burning at the base of the spine that had spread to the limbs and up the neck into the brain with terrifying speed. I had seen it kill over twenty people in the last thirty hours, and now it was my turn.

I straightened with a wince, craning my neck to glance over at the lander. There was no sign of Gregson. For all I knew he had already passed out, maybe even died.  His infection had been far more advanced than my own, and I had left him writhing and thrashing in the throes of delirium. A flicker of guilt fluttered through me at abandoning him, until I remembered my own predicament. Falling to my knees, I clawed away the remaining dirt until I uncovered the metal casing of the storage unit. A fresh wave of dizziness washed over me as I wiped a shaking hand across my brow.

Come on, keep it together. You can do this.

Fear quickened my heart – both of what I was about to do, and of the disease now consuming my trembling sweat-soaked body. Sliding off the top of the unit, I squeezed myself between the side of it and the wall of dirt to my right. We had used one of the worker units to dig this pit just over a day ago, and I wished we still had them around to help me exhume it again.

I held my breath as I hauled the lid open. It didn’t make much difference. The smell was unbearable in the confined space. Inside the makeshift coffin the corpse was already beginning to liquefy, undergoing some kind of accelerated decomposition. Despite the state of the corpse, I could clearly see the strange fungal growths covering it. They had turned from blue to brown after death.

This foul rotting thing had been a friend once, Jason Cain, to be exact. I probably stared at his bloated discoloured face for a good twenty seconds, part morbid fascination and part shocked revulsion. Here was the brutal reality of death. We put people in the ground and then tried to forget what came next, tried to remember them as we had known them, as if that was how they would stay forever. But there was no time for any of this. I knew I was trying to put off what I had come here to do, but time was no longer on my side.

The hand tore clean away as I pulled it free of the body.

Somehow I managed to keep my breakfast down.

I crawled out of the pit, skidding down the slope beyond in a cloud of dust and grit. I collapsed at the bottom, my whole body shaking as I dragged myself weakly forwards, dry heaving painfully until my stomach and sides ached. Finally, I crawled up against a large boulder and huddled against it, filthy and shaking, drenched in sweat. Every part of my body hurt, and my vision was beginning to blur.

I looked down at the hand I held. It had been a part of my friend once. Now it was just a thing, an object, or that’s what I tried to tell myself. I just wondered how much of it I would have to eat. My stomach churned at the thought.

It’s just meat, I told myself.


If you want to read the rest of the story, keep an eye out for my next book The Basement of Dreams and Other Tales later this year.

KeplersCowboysTwilightVol2If you can’t wait that long, A Touch of Silence and Other Tales is out now in paperback and for the Kindle, and contains ten short stories (nine previously published, and one new one). You can also find my stories (and lots more by other great authors) in the brilliant Kepler’s Cowboys anthology and in Twilight Madhouse Vol 2. from Schreyer Ink Publishing.

I’ll sign off here, but a huge thank-you to Jason for giving me this chance to say hello. If you’d like to get updates on my work, I don’t have a blog yet (it’s on my to-do list!) but you can find me on Facebook at the group: ‘The Stories of Simon Bleaken’.

Why not drop by and say hello?