Fiction, My Books, Novel, Theme, Writing

Why Every Story I Write Will Be the Same

I’m getting very close to having An Illusion of Trust ready for publication. I expect to send the manuscript to my copy editor next week. I think it’s pretty clean already, so I don’t anticipate many changes. Soon it will be ready for formatting—well, there’s the matter of a cover too. I’m on the third design now, but I think this is going to be the one.

hugAnyway, I’ve been thinking about how to describe this book. I have an official description on the fledgling book page, and that tells you, in general, what happens, but what it’s about is more than that. What it’s about is what everything I write is about—love. And I don’t necessarily mean romantic love. Only some of my novels and stories contain those sorts of relationships, but all of them are about the universal human search for acceptance, the essence of love.

When it comes to pitching my novels, I always think how much easier it would be if I wrote mysteries, or thrillers, or horror, or fantasy—anything easier to describe than mine. I write about people. I’ve always thought that if I’d gone to college I would have majored in sociology in some form. I’m curious about the form and function of human society.

Those who know me in real life would probably find that statement curious, hilarious even, since I’m not particularly sociable. I’m just more at ease observing than participating. Possibly many writers are the same. But everyone wants to be accepted. We all search for our place where we feel loved and safe, where we belong, where we matter. And always that search begins within. In that sense every story I write will be the same.

The trick is to make those stories fascinating.


Characters, Fiction, Marketing, My Books, Novel, Publish, Query, Theme, Writing

What’s a male protagonist doing in my women’s fiction?

Yes, I’m back to the subject of categorizing fiction. I’ve been told the key to knowing how to label your book’s category is to picture where it would be shelved in a book store. That advice works for those who write in mystery, sci-fi, horror, YA, and other clearly defined genres, but I don’t. I see my novel shelved in that vast section with the helpful title “Fiction, alphabetical by author.”

Two of my favorite authors are Anne Tyler and Sheri Reynolds. What I write is similar to their stories, and, somewhere, I saw them both listed under “women’s fiction.” Okay, so that’s my category. But wait! Many people (readers and agents alike) hear women’s fiction and think Chick Lit or Romance, neither of which describes my novel.

Another term, used mostly by the publishing industry, is “upmarket,” which denotes more than usual attention paid to character development and language use for the genre. I’ve used either “upmarket women’s fiction” or “literary women’s fiction” in my query letters. But yesterday, I read Lydia Sharp’s definition of women’s fiction and felt like an idiot.

In short, Lydia said, in women’s fiction “the main theme always revolves around some aspect of the female experience.” Uh oh. My themes of love, loss, and redemption are universal, but my main character is a man. There are two female co-main characters, with parts written from their pov, but overall, it’s Jalal’s story. It can’t be women’s fiction.

But wait! That’s not what Jessica Faust said on her blog when she responded to a question almost describing my novel. In her opinion, women’s fiction can have a male protagonist. Hmmm. Was Lydia wrong or had I misunderstood her?

I hope you didn’t waste more than a second on that no-brainer. I asked Lydia to clarify and she did, even citing the same Jessica Faust response I’ve held dear. Whew! So I haven’t been an idiot. Well, at least not for describing my novel as women’s fiction.

Are any of you writing WF with a male protagonist? Have you read one? Would you?

Could you?

With a goat?

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Excerpt, Fiction, Musings, My Books, Novel, Power, Theme, Writing

The power of three

Before Renee could say anything more, anything about Meredith, Jalal took off at a run, heading back home. Passing not another soul along the empty street, he cut across the bridge and wound through the lanes, every house looming dark and silent, every pounding step echoing from the vacant spaces, every heartbeat taking him down and down and down toward the shore.

tri_gld_prplOne of the themes in my current work is the number three. There are three main characters. Three lives with three stories of love, loss, and redemption. The quote above illustrates my natural tendency to compose in repetition of three: street, bridge, lanes; every house, every step, every heartbeat; down, down, down. My brain does not let go at two or four; it’s satisfied at three.

Maybe, it comes to me from my Celtic ancestors with their copious use of triadic symbols, but likely I’m expressing archetype, a universal law. Consider:

  • Body, soul, and spirit (echoed by: the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost)
  • Maiden, mother, crone
  • Primary, secondary, tertiary
  • Past, present, future
  • Morning, noon, and night
  • Up, down, and all around
  • Thought, word, and deed
  • Animal, vegetable, and mineral

Expressions of three are … well … here, there and everywhere.