writing life

Writing for Health

For the past week or so, I’ve been writing a first draft, and I think I’ve validated my theory that it’s the business part of publishing that burns me out. Once I started writing instead of spending all my time on business tasks and proofreading, etc., I felt so much better. I have more energy, I’m less stressed, I sleep better, and I even have less physical pain.

Yes, writing seems to be good for my body, while doing other stuff is bad for me. Mostly, that’s about the way I sit when I do other stuff. When I’m typing, I sit more or less like a normal person, facing the computer, my hands on the keyboard. When I’m reading things on the computer but not typing, I tend to get into weird, twisted positions and lean to the side, so I end up with a sore shoulder. Meanwhile, scrolling and clicking makes my right hand sore if I do it all day. When I’m typing, all the fingers on both hands are working, and nothing feels overused or strained.

It also helps that I’ve seen more results from my work lately, so I have less of that helpless feeling that I think contributes to the sense of burnout. I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time. Getting a couple of books ready for publication and seeing sales makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. Plus, there’s some other stuff that may be in the works that I hope to be able to discuss later that’s made me feel a bit better about work.

I’m going to have to figure out a way to get better balance going forward. I do need to do the business stuff because writing the books doesn’t do much good if I’m not selling them. I just need to find a way to make sure I’m writing more often and don’t end up with too many days in a row of just proofreading and promoting. Even when I’m in editing and marketing mode, maybe I should work on a short story, or something, purely for health reasons. I guess I’m the kind of writer who’d be happy just hiding in my cave and churning out stories, but it’s really hard to make a living doing that these days. You’re always going to have to deal with business issues, and all authors are expected to participate in promotion and publicity, even if they’re dealing with one of the big publishers.

In the meantime, I’ve got a book releasing Friday, so I suppose I should be doing some promo, but first I need to write a couple thousand more words for the day.


Island Fantasies

I’m barely watching any regular TV right now, other than the news and maybe stuff on PBS, but I gave the new version of Fantasy Island a shot this week. I watched the original when I was a kid. It was part of the Saturday-night programming line-up, after The Love Boat but, as I recall, I only got to stay up to watch the whole thing during the summer. While I liked the idea of a vacation where you got to live out your dreams, I recall my main interest being in the guest stars. They seemed to mostly cast people who were known for other shows on the network, so it was a good way to see a favorite actor from another show in a different role. My memories may not be accurate, but it seemed to me that they were a bit cagey as to whether or not there was anything truly supernatural going on, with the fantasies mostly being things that someone with resources could set up. To a large extent, it was The Love Boat on an island, and I recall there being a lot of the guest characters falling in love with each other (or it’s possible that my brain has merged the two shows, since they ran back-to-back).

Then there was the 1998 TV version, which I loved because they took it in more of a true fantasy (as in genre) direction. It had a kind of Twilight Zone vibe, and it was much more overt that there were supernatural things going on. I only remember a few episodes actually airing, but IMDB has airdates for all the episodes that were produced. I wonder if those were planned airdates and the show didn’t actually run then because the way I recall it, they did the usual for ABC (known as the Already Been Cancelled network then) thing at the time of running three episodes, running the preview for the next episode at the end of the third one, and then never showing any more episodes.

Anyway, since I’d liked that version a lot, I tuned in for the new one, and it seems like an uncomfortable hybrid between the two versions, though without the celebrity guest stars (at least, not anyone I recognized from anything else). It’s got that drenched in sunshine, happy vacation resort mood of the original and the obvious supernatural angle of the 1998 version, since the fantasies could only have happened with some kind of magic, but I found myself utterly bored. I didn’t get any sense of the regulars and what their relationships were, and there wasn’t any real tension in the fantasies.

I found that the 1998 version is streaming free on tubi, so I watched the pilot last night to make sure my memories weren’t skewed, and although it is dated and very much a product of its time, I was much more captivated with it. Part of it is the travel agency that sends the guests to the island. I’m a sucker for the “mysterious business you never noticed before is just what you need, and then you can’t find it again” trope, and they completely got me when they used a pneumatic tube to send something from an American city to a remote tropical island. Then there’s the hint that the staff on the island are working off some kind of sentence, so they have to help the guests learn whatever cosmic lesson they’re there for in order to eventually be able to escape from the island. We got to meet most of the regulars and get a sense of what was going on with them before the guests showed up, so there was something to carry us through the episodes and there was a mystery to figure out as to how and why they were there.

So I may skip the new one and just rewatch the 1998 version that’s more to my taste.

When I was considering that “stay in your lane” advice and trying to figure out what I could write that would fit my previous work but still be in a subgenre that sells well, I toyed with the idea of doing a series of paranormal romantic comedies along those lines, though I think I’d do a remote mountain resort instead of a tropical island. Have the regulars on staff with an ongoing storyline and a new couple for each book having to figure things out and get together. But that idea is way on the back burner because I’m less concerned about sticking to a niche, and I’m not excited enough about that idea to have put any additional thought into it.

My Books

New Mystery Ready to Pre-order

I know it seems I only put out a new book a week or so ago, but the next one is already available to pre-order. You can order Lucky Lexie book 4 now from the major online stores, and it will be released on August 20. The paperback will be available around the release date. I’m adding links as I get them to the page on my site.

This is a twisty little tale that was fun to write. I took a familiar old plot and added the wrinkle of my heroine’s ability to see ghosts. Earlier this year, I found a recent BBC production of The Lady Vanishes on a streaming service. This is a mystery/thriller about a young woman traveling by train across Europe. She strikes up a conversation with a woman seated in her compartment, has tea with her in the dining car, then falls asleep upon returning to their compartment. When she wakes, the woman isn’t there, and when she asks about her, nobody else in the compartment remembers ever seeing her. No one in the dining car seems to have seen her. But the young woman is sure she was talking to someone, and now she’s worried that something happened to her. While watching that movie, I couldn’t help but think about how much more complicated it would be if the heroine could see and talk to ghosts. How would she know if she’d imagined the whole thing, if she’d been talking to a ghost, or if everyone was lying to her?

And that kicked off the story idea. I couldn’t resist doing something like that, with Lexie meeting someone whom no one else recalls seeing. Add some of the interesting local talents and the world’s most observant (and nosy) neighborhood watch, as well as another twist or two, and I had a story.

Meanwhile, I started writing the next Lexie book this morning. This is a story idea that’s been in my head for a long time, but I didn’t have the right characters or situation to use it. It’s absolutely perfect for this series, so I’m going to have fun writing it. This one gets the characters out of their usual setting, so I got to create a new cast of supporting characters. Don’t worry, some of the regulars will be there, but there are also some new guest stars. My goal is to have this one out in time for Halloween, since it’s a nice spooky story.


The Problem with Series

I’ve realized that although I love series, I also have a difficult relationship with them.

On the one hand, if I fall in love with a world and the characters, I’m a bit disappointed to find that there isn’t more. I want to return to that world and spend more time with those people.

On the other hand, there are a lot of ways that a series can go wrong for me. For one thing, I have a bad habit of burning out when I binge a series. If I find a book I love and there’s another one, I grab it right away and plow through it, then grab the next one, and I often give up about halfway through that one. There are a number of series on my shelves with a bookmark midway through book 3. I don’t know how much that’s me or how much it’s about the books. Often, book 3 is where things go darker and more intense, where the characters begin to really change, so the books start to feel different from what I fell in love with in book one. That’s also often where the party gets split, with the story going off in two different directions, and frequently it focuses on the characters I don’t like so much while barely touching upon the characters I like most. Sometimes their story gets picked up in the following book, but if I don’t get through book 3, I’m not likely to get to book 4. Still, I have found that I’m more likely to finish a series if I read something else between books, so some of it may just be my issue.

Then there’s what often happens to the story in the series. Book one is usually fairly standalone, even if it does leave things open for a sequel or even sets up the sequel, since that’s the book the author sells to the publisher. That book needs to have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Book 2 may even be that way, since the author has usually written it before book one gets published (I’d written Once Upon Stilettos before Enchanted, Inc. was released). But once they know it’s going to be able to be a series, things can get wacky. That’s where story structure sometimes flies right out the window. A whole book may be setup for the epic conclusion in the following book or may be a side quest or diversion to delay the ultimate confrontation.

I had two frustrating series experiences this week. In one, I suspect the series was meant to be a trilogy, and when book 3 came in really long, the series was successful enough that the publisher decided to split it into two books. I was chugging along in book 3, and things were just about to kick into high gear, at the part the hero’s journey calls “approach to the inmost cave,” when the book just stopped. I may have actually shouted, “What?” This morning, I got book 4 from the library, so now I get to see what happens.

With the other series, I kind of feel like the plot is just an excuse for the characters to hang out together. There’s this supposedly dire situation that they have to deal with before the evil wizard takes over the world, but two books into the series and they haven’t done much of anything about it because they keep getting sidetracked. They go to a place to get or do something, but then they spend page after page just hanging out and talking to each other. I’m okay with a story that’s mostly about the relationships among characters, but it doesn’t work if there’s that constant threat of the world being destroyed in the background, and they’re the only ones who can save the day, but they’re more concerned about their feelings for each other.

I have mixed feelings about the “world” kind of series, where there’s a different protagonist in each book. If I find out that there’s a different protagonist from the one I fell in love with in book one, I’ll be reluctant to read book 2, only to fall in love with the new person when I do read it. The same thing happens when there are sub-series within a big series, so there may be the same protagonist for several books, but there are mini-series set in the same world that focus on other characters, either in a different time or in a different place or sphere of life (like, say, the Guards books and the Wizards books in Discworld — they’re set in the same city but focus on different things, and then there are other Discworld books taking place in a different part of the world). There have been times I put off reading a book that didn’t focus on the characters I liked, only to finally read that book and love the new characters even more, so then I’m less thrilled about going back to the original characters.

I’ve mostly written the kind of series in which each book is more or less a self-contained story that fits together in a big-picture story, with the same main characters in each book. Now I’m exploring some other ideas and trying to figure out whether I as a reader would want to keep reading, would I burn out, would I get sidetracked, or would I fall in love with each new group of people.

But first, I need to know what happens next in that series I’ve been reading.

My Books

Finding My Niche

In the virtual conference I’ve been attending, there were some sessions where that “find your lane and stay in it” concept came up, and then there was a Zoom roundtable discussion for the authors who, like me, completely freaked out at the very idea.

One idea that came out of the discussion was that there are different ways to find a lane. There is the narrow subgenre idea, where you’re known for something like writing sweet contemporary western romances with wounded cowboy heroes, but then there’s also more of a personal brand concept, where an author is known for delivering a particular mood or feeling that carries over through multiple subgenres.

When you look at it that way, that’s more or less what I’ve been doing all along. I made a decision when Enchanted, Inc. got a lot of YA crossover readership and was recommended as an adult book for teen readers that everything I wrote would fit into that category. Even if I’m not writing about teen characters and am not writing books that would be shelved in YA, I want my books to be teen-safe (which means they’re things parents of teens would be okay with teens reading — I know teens certainly don’t limit their reading to things their parents would want them to read). That’s within reason, since my adult books are adult books. I once got an e-mail from a reader angry that she couldn’t read one of my books with her 8-year-old daughter because the language was so bad (I think the word “bitch” came up), and I replied that I was sorry she felt that way, but the book was published for adults and wasn’t meant for 8-year-olds. Still, what I aim for is something that a teen, her cool aunt, her mom, and her grandmother could all read together in a family book club. It’s something you could put on broadcast TV with no editing.

The other thing I think is part of my brand is that my books are mostly fun. Some are more humorous than others, but even the books I don’t write as comedy should make you smile sometimes. I’m not going to drag my characters through horrible torture and lots of angst. You’ll feel good when you’re done reading one of my books.

Those two things are mostly just me being me. But to narrow it down further, I’ve decided to stick with things that have some kind of fantasy element to them. I occasionally come up with ideas that aren’t fantasy, but I think that would risk going too far afield. The people who would read, say, a non-fantasy romantic comedy are much less likely to want to read the rest of my work, while a lot of the fantasy readers wouldn’t cross over to read a non-fantasy book. I’m trying to write things I could imagine most of my readers being interested. There may be some series that some readers are less interested in, since you can’t please everyone all the time, but the idea is to keep things so that the bulk of my readers would at least be willing to give everything I write a try.

So, basically, my lane is fun fantasy books you wouldn’t mind sharing with your daughter or your mom. (I do have male readers, but my readership is so predominantly female that this is where I’m focusing.) I could narrow it further to adorkable wizards and spunky heroines, but that might be limiting myself too much. I may not be narrowed to a subgenre, but that just means people can find me from multiple angles, and if they like what they read, they’ll start searching for me rather than looking in genre categories.

How does this ring to you, my readers? Does this fit with why you look for books like mine, or were you drawn by something more specific?

writing life

Fiction Friday: Brainstorming Day

After coming up with the idea for doing Fiction Fridays a couple of weeks ago, I might actually get to do it this week. I launched a book and finished one proofing pass on another. I wrapped up the freelance articles I’ve been working on. There’s administrative work I could be doing, but none of it is urgent. I have a virtual conference Zoom roundtable discussion this afternoon, but other than that, I have a day free for making up stuff. And that means I’m going to start brainstorming and outlining the next mystery book.

I’m excited about this one because the general concept is something that’s been in my head for a couple of decades, with different characters in the lead. I keep “auditioning” characters for this story, and I’ve never had a good place for it until now. And now I have the perfect place for it.

I realized, though, when I started thinking about the outline for this book that the story concept I’ve had all this time was pretty thin. It gives me a setting and a very basic situation. I still have to come up with the actual crime and how it’s going to be solved, and whatever else they’ll discover along the way. That’s going to take some serious pen-and-paper work, maybe some pacing and talking to myself. Which, I guess, counts as exercise, while I’m at it.

So, that’s most of my day set. It’ll feel like an early start to the weekend.


Too Romancey?

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve had books with almost no romance in them rejected by fantasy publishers as being too “romancey.” I’m reading a book right now that gives me an understanding of what they might have meant, though I still don’t think it applies to my writing.

It’s a fantasy book by an author who’s written historical and time travel romance. I can’t tell if it’s published by the fantasy imprint or the romance imprint at that publisher (it’s a publisher that does both, and there’s no indication of which side of the house it comes from, just the generic umbrella publisher name). Structurally, it’s more of a fantasy. The romantic hero and heroine don’t meet until about a third through the book. There’s a main plot that has nothing to do with the relationship. You could remove the relationship without really affecting the main plot. There’s no sex and not even a kiss, though the hero and heroine are in love (he admits it, but she’s still half in denial while still having obvious feelings). That would put it firmly on the fantasy side of the fence. I wouldn’t think you could publish it as romance (unless the fact that the author is a romance bestseller is a factor). Someone reading it for the romance would be very disappointed.

And yet it all feels very romancey. This fantasy plot is written like it’s a historical romance. The voice is straight out of romance, as well as the internal thoughts of the characters regarding each other. He spends a lot of time thinking about how beautiful she is. Once the hero and heroine meet, the main plot takes a backseat to their developing relationship. While you could remove the relationship without affecting the main plot, it would be a really thin and weak story if you did so because there wouldn’t be much happening. At times, it almost feels like the author forgot about the main plot, and she did seem to forget about the other characters. It’s one of those “couple in a group on a quest falls in love along the way” stories, and the rest of the group gets so forgotten that when one of them is mentioned later, I had to flip back to remember who that character was. He’d been present in the group all along, but he hadn’t been mentioned for a couple hundred pages. The quest is supposedly quite urgent, but reasons for the whole thing to pause while the hero and heroine go off and do something alone for a few days or for the rest of the group to go off and leave them alone for a day or so keep coming up.

I mostly like the characters (though I sometimes want to throttle the heroine). The hero isn’t the typical romance hero, which is a plus. He’s a character type I adore. But I kind of want to rewrite the book. It’s so close to that model of what I love and have been looking for, but in spite of being written like a romance, it’s missing the spark that I get when that trope is done well. It’s somehow less romantic than it likely would have been if it had been written more like a fantasy. There’s zero subtext. It’s all right there — she’s the most beautiful woman ever, so he loves her even though he sometimes finds her infuriating. And, no, I’m not going to name a book I’m criticizing like this.

So maybe that’s what the editors mean about my writing when they say it’s too romancey even though there’s little actual romance in the book and the two characters don’t even kiss. I wouldn’t have thought my voice comes across as “romancey.” I have to keep reminding myself to give character descriptions and to put the emotions in, but I do sometimes let a character fixate on some aspect of their crush object and mention it a lot. I’ll have to keep this in mind going forward. Not that a romancey voice is a bad thing (that’s where the publishing money is), but it’s bad if it keeps getting me rejected from where I’d like to have my books be, while my books aren’t anything that could actually be published as romance because they’re so lacking in romance.

My Books

New Book News

I’ve mentioned that I was working on this, but it’s finally here — the e-book and paperback versions of the audiobook Make Mine Magic will be coming next week, released on July 29. You can pre-order at the major retailers.



Barnes & Noble


And for all others, here’s the Universal Book Link

This is a contemporary fantasy similar in style to Enchanted, Inc., but probably less funny, since I wasn’t aiming for outright comedy, and in a different fictional universe. I’ve been asked if this will be a series, but I really have no idea. I wrote it for Audible as an Audible Original, but they changed that program, so they aren’t doing more original novels. It’s mostly shorter pieces or tie-ins to existing series. So, they haven’t asked for more books. Whether I write more will depend on how well the print book sells. I left it open for a possibility of more books, but I don’t actually have a story idea for another book right now. It’s a fun little magical romp, and I wanted to release this version because I know there are people (like me) who don’t do audiobooks.

There’s more info on the book’s page on my website.

Then the next Lucky Lexie mystery will be coming in late August. I’m editing it right now, and I already have a cover done. More details later as we get closer to that time.


Weird Reasons to Read (or Not)

Sometimes the reasons we read, or don’t read, books can be a little strange. I’ve bought books because the cover was illustrated by someone who illustrated the covers of other books I liked. They were entirely different kinds of books, but I guess I thought that the art linked them, somehow. It wasn’t a rational choice, though it ended up working for me in some cases.

I’m currently reading a series that I didn’t read previously because the author’s name was too similar to the name of an author I liked. Weird, huh?

When I was in high school and college, I was obsessed with the Deryni books by Katherine Kurtz. This was before the Internet, so there weren’t a lot of ways to know if an author was going to have a new book coming out, other than maybe some of the specialty magazines (that I didn’t know about at the time). You mostly found that there was a new book by checking the bookstore every time you went to see if there was anything new. I discovered Kurtz (or I guess I could call her Katherine, since I actually know her now) when she had a bit of a lull between books, so I’d binged everything available up to that point, then had to wait for the next new one. Every time I went to the little bookstore in the mall, I’d check the K shelf of the fantasy section, and I’d get excited when I saw something by another author with a similar name — Katharine Kerr. Even the name of the series was similar enough to fool you if you saw it out of the corner of your eye, Deverry. I’d run by the bookstore (they had small bookstores in most malls back then) whenever I was in a mall, and it was just similar enough to jump out at me as my glance skimmed over the shelf. I’d get that “new book!” thrill, then take a good look and realize it was something different. Then I’d be so mad at that (poor, innocent) book that I wouldn’t even look at it because it had disappointed me by getting my hopes up and then not being what I wanted.

Then not too long ago, I saw something mentioning that series and thought I ought to give it a try. It turns out that it was the sort of thing I would have liked, so I was missing out by blaming those books for not being what I hoped they would be. They even have some similarities to the Deryni books in that the world is loosely based on medieval Wales. This series draws upon Celtic mythology, imagining a world in which some souls are doomed to make repeated returns to life until they resolve a particular issue, and in each go-round, those people tend to find each other and replay the same sort of conflicts. In the “present” of the story, we have the latest incarnations, but woven throughout is the story about how they got into that mess to begin with. Tying the threads together is an ancient magical man whose error in the past set a lot of things into motion, and now he’s stuck staying alive until he can fix it and free the others from the loop. He’s found the appropriate souls in their new lives, and they’re caught up in a conflict stirred up by others with an agenda, which complicates matters. He can’t really fix his own issue until he finds a way to defeat the bad guys so that the people he’s looking out for don’t get killed before they get set on the right path.

Our main character in the “present” is the daughter of a mercenary soldier who’s grown up traveling with her father and who is now the equal of most swordsmen. I was afraid we’d have a case of “not like other girls” with her being good at typically male things and that making her better than most women, but the cast of characters is pretty well balanced with other women who are good at politics and diplomacy or herbs and healing. When we had the inevitable “strong female character is terrible at sewing” scene, it’s not treated as that somehow making her better. The story points out that the noblewomen are responsible for providing clothing to the people who work for them, so this is necessary work, and she’s not good at it because she’s had no practice. That’s refreshing to read, especially since these books were published in the 80s.

The first book is Daggerspell, and I just finished the second book, Darkspell. There is some unsavory content that’s a bit questionable in places, but I felt like it was handled with some sensitivity and wasn’t dwelt upon for titillation. Let’s just say that some of the same things that are in A Game of Thrones are in these (though published nearly a decade earlier) but they’re handled in a very different way with a lot less relish.

It seems that these books are considered Sword & Sorcery or Epic fantasy, but what I liked is that they’re really about the relationships among this group of people and how these relationships have affected history over the centuries. I like the back-and-forth nature of the storytelling, showing the past lives and how they affect the present. Each book seems to focus on a different go-round of the past while moving the present story forward. I guess it’s kind of like Lost or Once Upon a Time, with the flashbacks and the present-day stories.

I got these books from the library, so I have no idea if they’re still in print (they do seem to be available as e-books), and I don’t know how well the series will progress or end. But I have requested the next book in the series as soon as I’ve finished reading one, so I guess they’re keeping me interested. I don’t hear a lot about Kerr now, but she seems to have been publishing at least up to 2009, with 15 books set in this particular world, and it looks like she’s self-published some things more recently. She seems to be one of those woman fantasy writers who’s forgotten when people act like women didn’t get into fantasy until recently.

People who like epic fantasy like The Lord of the Rings but also want character-driven stories are most likely to enjoy these.

publishing business

Category Confusion

As part of the idea of finding a lane and sticking to it, I’ve been taking a look at the various categories that books are sold in, primarily at Amazon. And that gets confusing because there’s no actual definition for any of the categories. Authors and publishers can select the categories themselves, and Amazon may select other categories based on similar audiences. The best you can do for figuring out the definition of a category is look at the books that are in there, and that’s not always consistent.

For instance, in fantasy, there are categories like “action and adventure,” “epic,” “historical,” and “sword and sorcery.”

Action & Adventure seems like a catch-all. Most traditional fantasy has some kind of action and adventure in it, and the category is full of the common bestselling fantasy series, like A Song of Ice and Fire, Wheel of Time, and stuff by Brandon Sanderson, as well as a lot of Dungeons and Dragons game manuals. So maybe you could classify this category as “fantasy for people who play D&D.”

The Epic Fantasy category has pretty much the same books as Action & Adventure, plus the Lord of the Rings books (which may have also been in the A&A category, but further down, as I didn’t drill too deep).

If you asked me to guess which books would be in “Historical Fantasy,” I’d have gone with books set in a defined point in history, but with the addition of fantasy elements, such as Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which is about the Napoleonic Wars but with a magician as part of the British forces, or the Temeraire series, about the Napoleonic Wars but with an air force consisting of dragons. I guess you could also call that alternative history, but I tend to think of alt history as where history has gone off in a very different direction because something different happened, like my Rebels books, while those books have more or less the same history playing out, but it does so with fantasy elements. We’re not seeing what happens if England loses to Napoleon at Waterloo, just England winning at Waterloo with the help of a wizard. So, fantasy set in the history of our world, vs. secondary world fantasy.

And yet, I remember the Deryni books by Katherine Kurtz being called “historical fantasy.” They were secondary world, but that world was based very closely on our world. Kurtz was active in the Society for Creative Anachronism and was a stickler for getting the details right. There might have been people with magical powers in her world, but aside from that, she wanted the clothing, weapons, and technology to be historically accurate for the period in which she set her books. In one of the books, there’s an author’s note apologizing for using a kind of boat that didn’t come along for another hundred years or so after the period she was writing about, but she needed a boat with particular capabilities for the plot to work. Her land was roughly based on Britain, but with a somewhat different geography and very different politics, but did have Christianity. So I guess “historical fantasy” could also be about a secondary world based closely on a particular era of our world instead of being wildly different and having races like elves and dwarfs.

Looking at what’s actually in the category, it’s a lot of the same things that were in the other categories, plus the Outlander books and Erin Morgenstern’s books (The Night Circus, etc.).

I’ve thought of Sword & Sorcery as being something like the Conan the Barbarian books. But I’m reading a fantasy series now that has a blurb on the cover calling it “one of the best sword and sorcery fantasies in years,” or something to that effect, and I’m not sure I’d ever have looked for something like it in that category. There are swords, and there’s magic, but the focus of the series is on the relationships among the characters. On Amazon, that category is almost identical to Action & Adventure and Epic.

You get very different results if you look in “books” instead of “Kindle e-books” since the Kindle Unlimited books dominate in e-books, and those tend to go after a very different audience. They’re very trope-driven and are very much in that “find your lane and stay with it” way of writing. You also see different things if you look at the bestsellers vs. just browsing in the category (the bestsellers are a current snapshot, but there’s some kind of consideration of sales over time in browsing, apparently).

I find all this a bit frustrating as both a reader and a writer. It doesn’t help in finding books if the same books are in every category. Why bother having such narrow categories at all if they all end up being the same, anyway? When there’s little difference between the books you see in plain-old “Fantasy” and the books you see when you break it down into smaller categories, and there’s little difference between categories, there’s no point in having the smaller categories. You might as well be like the big bookstores and just have a general “Science Fiction and Fantasy” section. Yeah, you might have some books that are historical, epic, action & adventure, romantic sword & sorcery, but all of them? Maybe what we need are more specific categories — secondary world, quest stories, non-grimdark (or shove grimdark into its own category without it also spilling over into all the other categories). And maybe separate categories for romantic urban fantasy (that’s really just paranormal romance) and “traditional” fantasy with romantic elements. I guess you can drill down into some of that with keyword searches, but I haven’t had a lot of luck. I even have software that lets me look up how a particular book is classified and what books you get when you search for a particular keyword, and that hasn’t helped me find books. Yeah, the software’s supposed to be for self-published writers to figure out which keywords and categories will be best, but I find it’s also useful to look up a particular book I like to see what categories it’s in, so I can then look there for other books like it.

Meanwhile, it doesn’t make it any easier to figure out which “lane” would be the best fit when they’re all more or less the same. I’ve got a virtual conference starting this weekend about the business side of publishing, so maybe I’ll learn something there that will help me.