Do You Like Reading Bountiful Books? Welcome!

books, Uncategorized

Masterpiece Marketplace

We’re glad to meet you here. We’re a band of people who read bountiful books – and write them, too!

If you’re like us, you’ve been frustrated by how hard it is to find the kind of reading material you like: bigger-than-life books in the grand tradition of the Literary Fiction classics, and ambitious Fusion Fiction that pushes the envelope of modern publishing by crossing several genre lines.

We all love reading language that paints pictures inside our heads, and we’re not bothered if we occasionally have to pick up a thesaurus or dictionary, to learn some new vocabulary we found in a great book.

We want to read stories that make us think and feel: to laugh, cry, get mad, have hope, be happy, surprised, satisfied.

We’ve often been so disappointed by modern fiction, that we’ve thought, “I could write better than that!”

And many of us felt driven to do so – but you don’t…

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Once upon a time…

books, Uncategorized

Choosing a book from library stacks or bookstore shelves used to be a simple and satisfying voyage of discovery. The options were Fiction or Nonfiction. If the reader’s choice was Nonfiction, there was the Dewey Decimal System to help locate a topic. If the choice was Fiction, there was the division between Adult and Juvenile. Within these categories, authors were ranged alphabetically, enabling readers to browse without borders. If readers wanted fiction subject guidance, Dewey could help with that, too.

Photo by Stuart Cale, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Stuart Cale, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Many readers seem to have lost faith in their ability to find fiction they’d like to read, at the level of meaning that’s important to them. Responsibility for this sad state lies with the BISAC marketing category codes, which were invented over lunch at a trade show in the 1970s, by a few marketing people who didn’t like the Dewey Decimal System. The people who wrote the BISAC acknowledge that any number of codes could be assigned to a book, but they recommend using no more than three. CreateSpace print-on-demand permits only one, and Smashwords e-book aggregator allows two.

This conveys to readers two unfortunate misunderstandings: first, that fiction can only be “about” one thing (meaning, it can be written in only one genre); and second, that a novel which strays from a single topic or genre is not a well-written book. In addition, when a BISAC marketing category is discontinued (an arbitrary decision based on fluctuating sales trends), the books that are tagged with that category also disappear (unless their authors become aware of the change and re-categorize the books).

Indiana State Library system catalog entry for Irish Firebrands. Click image to view full entry.

All of these factors make good books hard to find, as well as constituting  a stranglehold on creativity, as writers strive to make their works conform to unrealistic, ephemeral marketing expectations. Dewey Decimal System classifications are also retired as the system is refined, but the affected books migrate into new, related classifications, thus remaining findable; and because Dewey classification is made after publication by people who are educated in library science (not by an author, nor by a traditional publisher’s marketing department), it does not adversely affect the creative process.

Helping Readers Find FUSION FICTION

Life is not lived in only one genre. Works that cross genre lines tend to stand the test of time, because of their broader applicability to the human condition. This makes FUSION FICTION the category of classic literature. Modern digital technology also makes it possible for books never to go out of print. Writers need to build reader recognition for the unique and lasting value of stories that synthesize multiple genres.

It’s important for independent author-publishers to mention the category of FUSION FICTION in synopses, blurbs and other promotional materials, in addition to picking from several applicable genres, when classifying their cross-genre works.

If you write FUSION FICTION, please sign up to join this blog. See menu for details.

The Plot Thickens….

marketing, Uncategorized, writing

Readers who are familiar with the Irish Firebrands blog know that I’m an organic, or pantser writer: I don’t pick a plot and then plan a story around it. My stories come to me spontaneously, and are written that way, too, supplemented by research forays that happen when I discover a knowledge deficit that must be remedied, in order for me to plausibly develop a character or scene. I write in a non-linear way, and I generally know the end of the story before I know how it’s going to get there. The discovery of a plot comes after the fact, meaning that most of the book has been written, and I’m filling in gaps.

The writing process of plotting and outlining may be a consequence of elementary and secondary school composition lessons that were based on the reading and teacher-guided deconstructing of finished works of literature. Nobody knew the author’s writing process, but because the story was read from beginning to end, it was assumed that it had been written that way. Moreover, the requirements to come up with a topic, and then to pre-write an assignment by outlining it, were internalized by students who became convinced that these were unalterable rules for writing behavior that must be followed. 

A great many commercially successful works are produced in this way, and it may be the origin of much good single-genre fiction. But detailed planning and outlining also encourage plot-driven writing, which is inherently limiting, because the pressure to produce may lead to writing according to a formula or template: a predictable product, finished fast. 

Some writing theorists believe that these templates can be identified by a limited number of basic plots. Here is one famous list:

  1. Overcoming the Monster
  2. Rags to Riches
  3. The Quest
  4. Voyage and Return
  5. Comedy
  6. Tragedy
  7. Rebirth  

I believe it’s even simpler, and that there are only three basic plots: The Little Tailor, Boy Meets Girl, and Sadder But Wiser (sometimes called Gains the World but Loses Own Soul). Most of the seven suggested plots are just topics that fall under the three fundamental plots:

  • The Little Tailor encompasses numbers 1-4 and 7.
  • Number 5 is just an approach to storytelling, it’s not a story in itself: any tale but a tragedy can be told in a humorous way, and even tragedies will often inject some comic relief.
  • Number 6 is Sadder But Wiser. Some tragedies also incorporate a small degree of number 7 at the very end, but it’s usually a deathbed kind of thing for the tragic character: “too little, too late.”
  • Number 7 also falls under Boy Meets Girl.

A case can also be made for there being only one plot: Transformation. This is because the protagonist of every novel must undergo some degree of change to personality and/or motivation. In this respect, Boy Meets Girl is the most purely transformative tale, which is why love story subplots show up in novels of all genres. Falling in love provides a character with just enough change to keep readers interested. 

The fewer “plot” options there are, the more opportunities there are for change, because the writer is freer to incorporate innovative developments in characterization and action. The story can encompass a broader range of human experience, which is critical to the plausibility that maintains the reader’s suspension of disbelief. This flexibility is the foundation of Fusion Fiction.

Contrast this to the BISAC concept of “genre” classification: a multitude of book categories, each of which, although officially undefined, prescribe single-topic plot concepts that closely circumscribe allowable setting, character and action options, in conformance with artificially imposed limits on the expectations and imaginations of readers. No wonder the authors of Fusion Fiction find it difficult to select a BISAC category that can accurately describe their works. 

If a work of fiction cannot be accurately described by current marketing categories, then its author cannot reasonably expect it to be found by readers. If it does happen to be discovered, its author can hope that readers will be pleasantly surprised by its uniqueness, and because it delivers much more than what the deceptively simple genre code represented; nevertheless, it also risks rejection because it doesn’t “conform.”

If you write Fusion Fiction, act now to begin improving the accurate discoverability of your works: register with this website. Your text, graphics, and trailers will receive free promotion, and you will help build a community of like-minded talent, whose voices can be united to make the marketing of our Art more effective and successful. 

Strange Bedfellows.

Fusion Fiction, Uncategorized

eyes-under-bedWhen you consider the tonnage of the tomes under which our planet groans, there doesn’t seem to be any new ground left to cover in the BISAC Subject Heading Codes for marketing books. But pigeonholing Irish Firebrands stumped me, because of its unexpected combination of Boomer-lit, contemporary romantic beach-read, supernatural-paranormal, social-political-historical exposé, psychopathology, and religious elements.

Unexpected? How can that be? you may ask. After all, you wrote it – almost 500 pages of it.

Well, it’s like this: The book wrote itself. All I did was write it down. Very little conscious decision-making went into it: mainly that of plugging scenes into their proper places in the story’s calendar. I had no idea that I was going to write about strange bedfellows like religion and politics.

Ah, but it had to be somebody’s fault. Whose fault was it?
His career had been based on finding answers to questions like that – but looking into Lana’s eyes, he wondered if it really mattered, now…. “Sorry. I think I got out of line, there.”
“That’s okay. Everybody’s entitled to his own opinions.”
“I guess that’s why they say, never discuss religion or politics.”
“Kind of tough to do. I’m a religious person.”
“And I’m a political journalist.”
Her gaze was so grave, he was stricken with apprehension– Don’t let this be goodbye! Then the corners of her eyes crinkled in that way that made him catch his breath in unexpected excitement.
“Sounds like the beginning of an interesting friendship,” she said.
(Irish Firebrands, Chapter 6)

Most of the writing experience was of the lightbulb-over-the-head variety: a political, historical or social controversy would abruptly leap off the page of a book, or out of the Irish newspaper in the browser on the screen, suggesting a fictional situation that previously I’d had no clue existed. This led to some “cringe and whinge” days, when I groused to the Muse, “You want me to write about that? You’ve got to be kidding.” But the answer was always, “Nope. That’s what happened.” All I could do then was quibble over semantics.

Popular fiction has often examined the spiritual struggles of those who profess the world’s creeds. Anglicans, Amish, monks, Muslims, priests, Puritans, nuns, Nonconformists, Buddhists, Biblical reinventions: all have been found on my bookshelves. It should have been no surprise that Irish Firebrands would hale Mormons out of their traditional cozy-inspirational niche in the Intermountain West, to weather the storms of a mainstream, multi-genre, multi-cultural melodrama about people with maladaptive coping strategies. (One early reader remarked that the book reminded her of works by Graham Greene – whom I’ve never read – who apparently wrote in a similar way about troubled Catholics.)

To have a marketing category choice like Fusion Fiction would have saved me the Sturm und Drang of picking through dozens of marketing categories, none of which accurately described what I’d written. As a genre, Fusion Fiction is how writing shows the hybrid vigor it inherited from the strange-bedfellow meeting of Art and Life. 

Now I’m wading through the mud and the blood of early twentieth-century history to write a novel in a genre that’s different to that of my first book. I’m still just the scribe, but I do feel better prepared meet the the strange bedfellows that may lurk between the covers.

audiobook logoSeeking Visually Disabled Beta Readers for Irish Firebrands text-to-speech (TTS) audiobook testing. Click HERE for Details.