Life

Today’s Ideal Life

The movie nights I’ve been having lately are the result of some thinking I’ve been doing. I’ve been doing a lot of long-term planning, which starts with thinking about what your ideal life looks like. After all, if you don’t know exactly what you want, you can’t make plans for getting it. But there’s a downside to spending a lot of time imagining some ideal future. It tends to make you unhappy in the present, especially when that future is a long way down the road and depends on things that aren’t entirely in your control. There’s a really fine line to walk. You tend not to grow when you’re comfortable and content, but it’s also bad to be unhappy in the present because that’s where you live. You need to find happiness where you are while you aim for something even better.

I decided to do some of the same exercises, but about the present. What would my ideal life look like in my present circumstances — in this home, with the career and income I currently have? And what could I do to get that ideal life now? In doing that thinking, I realized that I’ve inherited my grandmother’s tendency to “save it for good.” In her case, it was saving nice things like the good dishes for special occasions. In my case, it’s a weird manifestation of my perfectionist streak in which I tend to avoid things I enjoy unless the circumstances can be ideal. I’ve nearly let gifts of things like food or bath products go bad because I waited for the ideal time to use them. I don’t watch movies I’ve wanted to see or that I want to rewatch or read books I’ve anticipated until I hit some magical combination of mood, weather, timing and occasion, which means it never happens. I’ve got a ton of spa-type items, like massagers, foot tub, facial sauna, and various products that I never get around to using because I save them for some idealized spa day that never happens.

So I’ve started making a point to do the things I like to do without having the ideal circumstances. If those circumstances come up, I can always do it again. Thus, the regular habit of movie nights. I do like to fit movies to my mood and often the season or weather, but if I want to watch something, I watch it without getting too caught up in a sense of the ideal. I still try to make a special occasion out of it, with candles (both electric and real) to provide some mood lighting so I can turn the lights out and carefully chosen snacks. I’m also trying to use the spa stuff as part of regular life. The facial sauna has come in handy when my sinuses were blocked. It’s starting to get warm enough that I can take the foot spa tub out to the patio. I can do a thing or two that feels good without having to turn it into a fancy spa day — or I can do a fancy spa day.

The other thing I need to do is finish getting my house organized and then maybe take a look at my decor. I’ve been in a holding pattern for so long in which I was hoping to buy a new house and move but couldn’t, so I may be here a year or two longer. I don’t want to buy all new furniture, but I can fix things up with what I have. I really want to get my office back to where it’s pleasant to work in because that will allow me to have better work/life balance if I generally leave my computer there. I need to be better about working during working hours and then switching it off, especially when it comes to things like social media or the impulse to do research every time a thought strikes me. Having a good office that I go to for work has been a big part of my visualization of my ideal life, and I can do that where I am, to some extent (though maybe not with the secret recording studio behind the bookcase door).

movies

Back to Middle Earth

I did my Lord of the Rings movie marathon over the weekend, watching the films for the first time in nearly 10 years. The last time I recall watching them was when I was gearing up to write No Quest for the Wicked and I watched them to make a list of quest story tropes to play with for when I put a quest in modern Manhattan (that book was so much fun to write). I thought I was checking the extended editions out of the library, since the illustration with the listing was the extended edition box set, but they just turned out to be the Blu Ray versions of the edition I already had. I would like to see the extended editions at some point, since I suspect a lot of what got added was the character stuff, and that’s the part I like. I have a feeling some of my friends have a set I can borrow, so maybe next winter I’ll do another viewing.

I also need to re-read the books. I first read them when I was in sixth grade and was utterly captivated. I tore through them. I re-read them in college and found them to be a bit of a slog. I wonder what I’d think of them now. As I rewatched the movies, I was trying to remember what it was that captivated me so much when I first read the books. I think a lot of it was the characters. The hobbits were really relatable to a kid, perhaps less so to an adult, and maybe that was the difference in reading between the ages of 11 and 21. I liked the relationships among the characters. I loved the Shire and Rivendell. I recall that my favorite part of the series was the first book, before things got really awful and dire. I think a lot of the stuff I liked in that book got cut from the movie.

I kind of feel like the movies went overkill on “epic.” It got almost too big to care too much. I was really involved in the character moments and found myself tuning out when it was massive CGI army of good guys vs. massive CGI army of bad guys. Even in smaller fights, they went to overkill in a way that I felt undermined the situation, like in a case when a swarm of at least 50 orcs attacks Aragorn while he’s on his own, and he manages to hold them off until backup arrives. Really, he’s just fighting about six of them, probably the ones who were stuntmen in costume, while the rest are CGI that don’t interact with him at all. If they’d only shown the six stuntmen, it would have actually been a more engaging fight, one I could imagine him winning with great effort. When he’s outnumbered at least fifty to one and they can’t easily beat him by just swarming over him, I figure he has plot armor and am not too worried about the outcome.

I do think that, in general, they did a good job of translating the books to film. The imagery is just about perfect (though I think the Ringwraiths in the 70s animated version were scarier). I just wish it hadn’t been so focused on massive battles. That was also the flaw in the Hobbit movies.

But I’m kind of a weirdo in that I’d have been okay with a story that was just hobbits living happily in the shire and maybe having some minor adventures, like traveling to Rivendell and hanging out with elves, then going home.

Books

Hooking Fantasy Readers

There’s been some discussion on fantasy author Twitter lately about recommending books that will hook people into reading fantasy. Quite frequently, if someone asks for a fantasy recommendation, no matter what they stipulate they’re looking for, the same books tend to get recommended, usually the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Wheel of Time series, and that sort of thing. Someone did a survey, and they found that nearly half the people didn’t get hooked on fantasy because of the usual recommendations. It was something else they read later when they tried again that worked. But there is a very vocal crowd that seems to think there’s something wrong if you don’t immediately fall in love with fantasy because of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings.

I personally don’t believe in the idea of one book that totally hooks you. I think it’s more of a process, and it starts in childhood. I started with Disney movies and Dr. Seuss books, which I think paved the way by getting me used to the idea of magic and strange alternate worlds. Someone who didn’t start out with that sort of thing may have more trouble getting used to the idea of things that can’t happen in our world. When I got to the “chapter book” level, I read pretty widely, usually by topic rather than genre — every horse book I could find, for instance. I seem to have gravitated toward books with a fantasy or magical element, whether it was talking animals, witches, or other worlds. I read The Horse and His Boy from the Chronicles of Narnia when I was reading horse books, and didn’t connect it to the series or to the genre. I read all the Roald Dahl books, read a few of the Oz books, and I read The Hobbit when they came out with the animated movie.

Around this time, there was Star Wars, which got me into science fiction, but I think it also laid a lot of groundwork for being a fantasy fan, since it’s essentially fantasy wearing a science fiction costume. Yeah, there are spaceships and robots, but it’s about a group of wizard warriors with magical powers, and there are princesses in need of rescuing. It’s structured so well as a fantasy that it’s easy to rewrite the same story as a fantasy. Lucas himself did it in Willow, and Eragon is basically a scene-for-scene rewrite with dragons instead of X-Wings (incidentally, that survey showed that book as one of the big entry-level books that hooked people on fantasy). I suspect it has a lot to do with the hero’s journey structure that’s so universal.

I didn’t really click into the idea of fantasy as a genre until sixth grade, when I read The Silver Chair and became obsessed with the Narnia books. Around that time, I re-read The Hobbit and moved on to the Lord of the Rings. From there, I got into other fantasy, mostly that written for children. There was Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series, then I got back into the Oz books. But I was also reading pretty widely in a variety of genres, and I didn’t glom onto fantasy in a big way, to the point I wanted to write it, until I discovered the Katherine Kurtz Deryni books in high school, and from there I found the Shannara books and a few other of the series that were big then.

I tend to give The Silver Chair credit for making me a fantasy fan, but it was more of a tipping point in an overall process. That’s really how just about anything works. They say you need to introduce a new food to a child at least three times before you can really tell if the child dislikes it. The first time is bound to be a big dislike because it’s new and different. We resist the unfamiliar. It’s not until the second time that the kid can even really try it once they’re past the unfamiliarity. Then the third time they can make a more honest assessment and decide they like it.

With that in mind, I don’t think you can hand a person a book and instantly turn them into a fan of something. It’s a process, and it’s going to vary by background — was the person exposed to fantasy-like stories as a kid? Does the person read fiction at all, or was the last novel they read assigned reading for a class? What kinds of other things does the person like? Maybe start with something in their chosen genre that has some mild fantasy elements, like a paranormal mystery or romance. (Enchanted, Inc., is apparently a really good entry-level fantasy because it appeals to those who like mystery, romance, chick lit, or liked the Harry Potter books but haven’t read other fantasy.) Handing someone who hasn’t read a novel since college a doorstopper of a book that’s the first in a trilogy and that’s full of songs written in made-up languages is probably not going to go well.

One thing we need to be really careful about is the high-pressure recommendation, when we hand someone our absolute favorite book, which is in a genre they aren’t familiar with, and expect it to have the same impact on them as it did on us, with the strong sense that we can’t be friends anymore if they don’t like it and immediately like everything else we like. That’s doomed to failure. Maybe start with something that has lower stakes for you emotionally, and only move on to your all-time favorite book once you’ve laid some groundwork — and then maybe leave off the hype and the importance that book has for you.

Done!

I finished my draft yesterday, so I’m taking a couple of days to get other stuff done, like getting my car inspected (now that the mirror is fixed) and running a few errands, maybe even going out for fun. There are a couple of things I’ve been saying I was going to do, and it’s a lovely day. There may also be reading on the patio, and there will be a library trip. Then in the next few evenings I’ll be viewing the extended editions of Lord of the Rings, since the DVDs came in on my library hold.

Yes, I do know how to celebrate. Woo hoo.

But I do have a bit to celebrate this week, what with finishing writing a book and finally managing that mirror repair. It’s like the two biggest things that have been lurking on my to-do list for weeks (months) are both off my plate at the same time. I feel like I could float. And then I will look at the rest of my list and sink, but for a moment I’m going to enjoy the freedom. Next week is spring break around here, so I need to do my out and about stuff this week while all the places aren’t crowded with kids.

Now, off to tackle the day!

Life

Minor Personal Triumph

I had a minor personal triumph yesterday that was a long time coming. It all started last summer, on my birthday.

To set the stage, the layout of my neighborhood is a little odd. It’s a townhome complex with detached garages. The houses are set back from the street, with garages in front, opening directly onto the street-like driveway that runs through the complex. The garages are one-car, and pretty narrow (they were built in the 80s, when compact cars were common). You have to go in at just the right angle, but when I came home the day before, someone had been parked (illegally) in the drive just in front of my garage, meaning it was really tricky to get in, and I came in at a weird angle. The next morning, my birthday, I was rushing out to get to music and art camp, and I noticed someone driving way too fast down the drive. Meanwhile, I noticed another car heading toward me from the opposite direction. That meant when I backed out, I was really looking out for a car that might be coming and stewing over the fast driver, so I forgot I was at a different angle and soon heard a weird sound.

Yep, I’d hit the passenger-side mirror on the side of the garage doorway. It was more or less intact, except for the cover coming off the back, so I threw the cover in the car and went on to the church. I later realized that while it looked intact, the mechanism inside that controls the positioning of the mirror had snapped. I was pretty upset about it all because that’s not the way you want to start your birthday, and you really don’t want to get a new mirror for your birthday.

My friends who know more about this than I do said it shouldn’t be too hard to replace. I looked up some info about it, even found the replacement part. But I guess I just didn’t want to deal with it. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I didn’t like to think about screwing up like that. A little black duct tape held it all in place, and I forgot about it. I might think about it when I was driving somewhere, but when I was at home where I could do something about it, I put it out of my mind.

But I was pretty sure the duct tape repair wouldn’t pass the state inspection, which I have to do before the end of March. I finally ordered the part online and figured that if I couldn’t change it myself, I’d at least save myself the markup on the part if I just had my mechanic install it. I watched a lot of YouTube videos about how to change it, and I was getting pretty nervous because some of them made it look like a big job. Sunday afternoon, I decided to tackle it, but I ran into a roadblock because the stuff inside the interior trim looked different than anything I’d seen in the videos. I finally figured it out late in the day, but then it turned out that I didn’t have the right tool to get to one of the bolts. I was either going to have to remove the interior door panel (which might also have required a new tool) or get a flat socket wrench that could fit into a narrow space—or pay someone with the tools to do it. The wrench was about $3.50 at Home Depot, so yesterday I went and got it, and I completed the repair pretty easily. All done in about 15 minutes once I had the right tool, and after months of fretting and stewing. I was even having nightmares about this.

I think maybe all those videos were counterproductive, aside from telling me how to remove that piece of interior trim to get at the mirror bolts. The repair jobs they were showing were total overkill, including removing door panels, dealing with stripped bolts, etc.

So, now I know how to do that one job, and I feel very accomplished. It’s such a relief to have that weight off me. I may tinker with the old mirror to see if there’s a way to fix it. Maybe if I’d known how to take it all apart back when it happened, I could have done something. There was too much tension on the mechanism with it attached to the car.

And now I can get my safety inspection done. I don’t think I want to open an auto repair shop, though I did find that my small hands were quite useful for working in tight spaces.

publishing business

More on Categories

Since I’ve been talking about book categories, I thought I should explain how that works and why it’s important. There’s a system of code categories that booksellers and publisher use to sort books. Some of the categories are pretty general, but then some areas get sliced and diced into pretty specific categories. For instance, there’s a code for firefighter romance. Strangely, although there’s a specific code for cozy mysteries involving crafts, there’s no code for paranormal mysteries. You can find the list of fiction categories here.

For traditional bookstores, the fine parsing doesn’t make much difference, since books are generally shelved in general fiction, romance, mystery, or science fiction and fantasy (some stores may break out horror into its own section, and some stores give all Christian fiction its own section). The codes are used more for databases and possibly for internal tracking (maybe to keep an eye on what’s selling).

But for online bookselling, they become more important. Instead of having to just go to the mystery section in a store and then scan the covers to see which ones you want, you can search a specific category. Each book can be put in more than one category if it fits multiple places. That can be both good and bad. If your book is a perfect fit for a category, that makes it easy to find. If it’s not such a good fit, your book can fall between the cracks. Since there’s no paranormal mystery category, I’m going to have to choose between maybe cozy, general and either amateur sleuths or women sleuths. I don’t know what the people looking for my sort of thing will be looking for.

Amazon also has some of its own categories, and I’m not sure how you get put in them or how they decide. I’m not even entirely sure how you find them. When I was digging through the bestseller lists for the potentially relevant categories, I tried clicking on an individual title, then found in its listing where they showed its rank in various categories, some of which weren’t listed as a category for browsing or bestseller lists. So, I was looking through general cozy mysteries, found a book that looked along the lines of what I’m writing, and found that there was a separate category for ghost mysteries, but it wasn’t listed for browsing, and there isn’t a code for it. But you can bring up a list of those books by clicking on that category in that listing. It may come from key words you can put in a book listing, possibly from algorithms that show what sorts of things people buy, like those “people who bought this also bought” lists. If a lot of people who generally buy ghost mysteries buy a book, it might get classified as a ghost mystery. Sometimes this is hilariously inaccurate. Recently, Enchanted, Inc. has been listed in “plays and drama,” which is just bizarre. I wonder if a lot of drama students who buy books of plays have been buying it.

This is what I’m talking about when I talk about trying to classify my books. Where are the people who are looking for the kind of book I write most likely to look for that kind of book? Once you know that, you can have a better idea of how to handle that book, like what to mention in the book description, what the cover should look like, etc.

You can call your books whatever you want to, whether it’s “light fantasy, “fun fantasy,” or “cozy fantasy,” but none of those are established categories, so you still have to find the right code to put on it. That’s the hard part.

TV

Historical Drama

I had a more successful movie weekend this week than I had the week before. No, I didn’t do a Lord of the Rings rewatch. I’m waiting until I can get the extended editions from the library (they were checked out). I went the historical fiction route, a miniseries that on Amazon is called The Devil’s Mistress (on IMDB it has a different title that might keep this post from being suitable for all ages, which is probably why Amazon changed it). It’s about the English Civl War, a period I’ve only recently started learning about, and is the kind of historical drama in which a fictional character manages to interact with all the major historical players (with some of the real people being altered with dramatic license).

It’s about a young woman in the court of Charles I whose life is upended by the conflict between the king and Parliament, and she ends up on just about every side in the conflict at various times, not because she’s fickle but because everyone she aligns with ends up betraying her. I was intrigued enough by the things that were going on that I started reading up on it all, and it seems like there were no real “good guys” in that war. Both sides seemed pretty obnoxious and trampled the people who might actually have been good.

It was one of those things where most of the cast were at least mildly familiar faces. If you’re a Doctor Who fan, there was some amusement to be had because Peter Capaldi played Charles I and John Simm played a mercenary who ended up fighting for Cromwell, so in a way we had another round of the Doctor vs. Master conflict (though this series was made long before Capaldi was the Doctor, but I guess around the time Simm was playing the Master).

There were a few scenes in which it verged on being the kind of romantic fantasy adventure I’ve been looking for, if only there had been even a tiny magical element. At one point in the story, the heroine has been betrayed by the side she was on at the time and has pretty much hit bottom. A wealthy man tries to rape her, she kills him, and then she puts on his clothes to be able to travel disguised as a man. She comes across the mercenary who at one time had been hired to guard her, who’s been captured by enemy soldiers, and she rescues him. The two of them end up traveling together and working as highwaymen, with much swashbuckling. The whole “woman dressed as man, avenging herself against the men who wronged her and her family at the side of a man who’s secretly in love with her” would make an excellent basis for a rollicking adventure. But it’s only one part of this story that’s more about the history and how ordinary people in this era were affected by the conflict, as well as exploring the various factions that arose in the vacuum of a king.

If you’re into costume drama, this one’s worth watching for the cast, the costumes (such lovely gowns!) and the history, but you may find yourself imagining an alternate story about the lady highwayman.

Deadlines

It looks like the Kickstarter for that anthology has funded, so I’ll have my first published short story (aside from the ones I published myself relating to the Enchanted, Inc. world). I need to try writing more of those because I think it’s a good exercise, and it’s a good way to get my name out to new readers (and get paid for doing so), assuming I can sell them. You can still get in on it through Feb. 29 if you want to get the various rewards. If not, you can get the book when it’s published.

I’m really, really close to finishing the draft I’m working on. I should hit my target word count today, but there will still be more story to go, so I may write the ending next week instead of rushing through it to hit some arbitrary deadline. Rushing something and then having to take longer in revisions will probably end up taking longer than taking a day or two more to write a good ending.

I still have that journalistic instinct of doing whatever it takes to hit a deadline. It’s even worse for me because I worked in TV news, so there’s no such thing as “a little late.” We went on the air at six, whether or not the stories were done, so they had to be done. If you’ve seen the movie Broadcast News, in which a character has to run an obstacle course through the office to get the tape to the control room just in time for that story to go on the air, I’ve actually done that. It wasn’t my story that came down to the wire. I was just the intern they made run the tape. But there was no obstacle course. When they had a tape being run, they’d shout to clear the halls, and then people stayed out of the way so the intern had a clear path.

I suppose that’s obsolete now that everything’s digital. They can send the story with the push of a button, and it’s instantly ready to go on the air. No intern standing over the editor’s shoulder in the edit bay, ready to grab the tape as soon as it comes out of the editing machine while people shout, “Clear the hall!”

Anyway, I seem to still have that mentality about writing deadlines, even if I set them myself. It’s good to be prompt and to hit deadlines, but in publishing it’s not that tight. They can deal with books being weeks late (in fact, they plan on authors being at least a few weeks late). A few minutes won’t kill them.

Life

Grown-up Kindergarteners

Last night, I had a real “wow, I’m getting old” experience. I was in charge of the combined preschool and kindergarten choirs because the preschool teacher was out of town. One of her teen helpers, who’s 13, just sort of jumped in and took over the class, which was fine with me. I had some things planned, but when she got there, she started writing out a lesson plan on the whiteboard, listing the things they usually do every week.

I couldn’t help but remember that I had this girl in my choir when she was in preschool and kindergarten. When she was in kindergarten, she was really bad about trying to take over the class. She thought of herself as the assistant teacher, in part because she was so much taller than the other kids, almost as tall as I was (now she towers over me). It was a constant battle to remind her that she was one of the students, and sometimes she could be a class leader, but everyone else also got a turn. But at the same time, I didn’t want to crush her confidence because when she was in preschool, she had been very shy and timid (I think she was getting bossed around and bullied by a friend in preschool, but they ended up going to different elementary schools, so she had a sudden confidence surge in kindergarten), but at the same time, I couldn’t let her take over the class.

Now, here I was, encouraging her to take over and letting her take charge. When there was something on her plan that I didn’t want to do, I skipped it and did my own thing, but I did go along with her general outline. And she was good about jumping in and coming up with something to do when we had technical difficulties (I couldn’t get the CD player to work at one point, so I was finding sheet music for the pianist to play). I know (because I’m friends with her mom) that she still struggles a bit socially at school and tends to get bullied (girl bullied, which is more about exclusion than physical threats), so it’s good for her to have a place where she can fit in and be confident, and the kids love her. There’s one little girl who’s super shy and hides in the corner, but then this girl comes in and she suddenly comes out of her shell and participates.

My babies are growing up. And sometimes I think the youth helpers benefit as much as the little kids do.

publishing business

Finding a Category

I’m running behind schedule today because I ended up having to do a massive brain dump to get a bunch of stuff out of my head and on paper so it wouldn’t end up swirling around in my head and distracting me. I have a lot of thoughts about how books are marketed and sold that have maybe led me to realize what some of my problems have been, and they filled about four sheets of paper once I started writing. I’m not sure I prevented the distraction, though, because those realizations have spurred more thoughts.

One thing that’s frustrated me about publishers is that they only seem to know how to sell a book if there’s already something like it in the market. Something new and entirely different is a scary unknown, and they don’t know how to put it in their spreadsheets. Most of my books come from a place of writing the thing I want to read but can’t find, which means they’re really hard to sell. It would have to be something the publisher is utterly passionate about so that they’d put in the work it takes to create a new category.

I thought that independent publishing would get me out of that problem because I could publish what I want, without needing to look at comparable titles. However, there’s still that problem of knowing how to package and market something new. Readers usually discover a book by seeing it, and the cover tells you pretty quickly what kind of book it is. Categories are even more important online for discoverability. It’s not like going into a physical bookstore and going to the science fiction and fantasy section. You can slice and dice it into sub categories, which is good when there are zillions of books available and you want to focus on just what you want, but it’s bad when what you want (or what you’re writing) doesn’t neatly fit into any category.

I seem to write stuff that’s potentially commercial but not marketable. I came up with the idea for the Enchanted, Inc. series because I liked the Harry Potter books and wanted something like that for adults — quirky and whimsical and dealing some with the clash between the magical world and the real world. I had a corporation instead of a school and dealt with workplace issues instead of school issues, but there was still the struggle of personal life vs. fighting magical evil while trying to keep the magical world a secret. It seemed like a no-brainer to me, given the massive numbers of adult Harry Potter fans and the younger fans who’d grown up. There had to be a huge potential readership. But I can see how marketing it was a challenge. The Harry Potter books may have been popular for adults, but they were packaged as children’s books (there were “adult” editions in the UK — I have two of them — but they had arty black-and-white photography covers that I like but that wouldn’t have sold the books if they hadn’t already been wildly popular in other forms). They couldn’t really package my books like that and hit the right audience. They were contemporary fantasy set in a city, but they weren’t urban fantasy as was being published around that time. There was no established way to package those books that would signal what they were to the audience that would like them, so they threw them into the chick lit category, where there was a defined look, and did some marketing to fantasy readers and paranormal romance readers. But then when the chick lit market tanked, it took these books with it, even though by then they weren’t really chick lit. There was still no good fantasy category for them.

I’ve been considering trying some advertising for these books, but I can’t think of what audiences I would use to build a campaign. Adult fans of Harry Potter would be too broad (and expensive) a category. The closest comparison in adult fantasy I can think of might be the Dresden Files books, but those are a lot darker. There probably is some audience overlap, but I’d guess that most Dresden Files readers would see my books and be instantly turned off (I’ve had some amusing conversations about the similarities and differences between our books with Jim Butcher). Some paranormal romance readers like my books, but that category tends to go really sexy, and my books aren’t truly romances. Really marketing my books would require either a huge investment or a big stroke of luck. I think a publisher could have done it, but for whatever reason they were turned off by the idea of any comparison to Harry Potter, even the idea of pitching it as Harry Potter for adults. Publishers hate using major bestsellers that are a category unto themselves as comparable titles, and they really don’t like going to another category. In their mind, those were children’s books and mine was in the adult category, and never the twain shall meet. The next Harry Potter could only be a children’s book.

I think the solution to my issue may be going after a more defined category with an established readership, building a name and audience there, and seeing if I can drag them into other things I want to write. So this mystery thing may be a clever strategy.