Stepping outside my comfort zone #1

canstockphoto8443816Before I explain that rather cryptic title, I’d like to share the opening paragraph of a novel with you.

“My boots make a sharp tapping sound as I clomp my way home. The loose gravel at the edge of the road jumps away from my anger, skirting ahead of me then tumbling down the steep embankment.”

That is a damned fine bit of writing. It is also a very evocative opening paragraph. Makes you want to know what’s happening, doesn’t it?

Well, that short excerpt was taken from Melissa Pearl’s YA novel ‘Betwixt’. And I would never have read it, never in a million years, if not for the First Chapters sampler.

Why? Because it’s YA and I don’t read YA [well, except for the Hunger Games trilogy but that’s not really YA].

You can see the snobbery right there. In my head, I still think that any novel that’s well written and interesting to an adult can’t possibly be something written for, well, you know… kids. Can it?

The interesting thing is, when I started reading the First Chapters sampler, I didn’t know that the Betwixt excerpt was YA. Yes, the female protagonist was only sixteen, but Shakespeare’s Juliette was only fourteen[?] and Romeo and Juliette could hardly be called YA!

So, I read something out of my normal comfort zone because I did not approach it with my normal preconceived prejudices. And Betwixt was not the only novel that took me by surprise.

In the next three weeks I’ll be posting my thoughts on other surprising finds in the First Chapters sampler. The two things all of them will have in common is that :

a) The excerpts will all be chosen from novels I would not ordinarily read, and

b) They will all come from the First Chapters sampler.

The reason? To convince you, my friends, to download First Chapters when it goes free from September 20 to 21. All the authors represented in First Chapters are Indies, and all struggle with the problem of visibility.

As I have discovered, part of the problem with visibility is that everyone has preconceived prejudices about what kinds of books they like to read. I’m hoping First Chapters will change that. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks

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About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

65 responses to “Stepping outside my comfort zone #1

  • Stephanie Allen Crist

    I agree that the genre bending is a good thing, for the most part, because it also means that a book can be classified by as many genres as it actually suits. But it also complicates the marketing aspect, because there are still plenty of readers who aren’t as adventurous as those who read across multiple genres. And there are also readers who are turned off by authors who defy their expectations for a particular genre.

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    • acflory

      I agree re the market, AND re the readership. However I think the availability of so many cheap to buy ebooks may be changing the types of books that readers are prepared to ‘try’.

      The change is still in its infancy but in time, I believe genre bending will open up new horizons for all readers.

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  • Stephanie Allen Crist

    Most of the YA I read as a child is what you’d expect, but most of the “YA” that I’ve stumbled across from contemporary publication is more like Romeo and Juliet and less like A Wrinkle In Time.

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    • acflory

      I’ve been surprised by YA twice now – if I include the Hunger Games. To be honest I’m not sure I truly understand the distinction between YA and adult sometimes.

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      • Stephanie Allen Crist

        I think the distinction is becoming much less aparent, yes. Genres are being shaken up and redefined, like the rest of the industry.

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        • acflory

          It’s a renaissance of sorts. Eventually things will settle down and sink into a rut again. For now though I’m enjoying all the new ideas floating around. Not all of them work but at least things aren’t boring.

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          • Stephanie Allen Crist

            I’m not entirely sure things will “settle down.” They usually do, but technology usually doesn’t advance at such a relentless pace. The game may be forever changed.

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          • acflory

            By settle down I meant that consumers of all stripes accept ebooks as the ‘norm’. How technology presents those ebooks will keep changing. I just hope the trend towards reading on smart phones is not the way of the future because I hate my phone. 😦

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          • Stephanie Allen Crist

            I don’t even have a smartphone. My phone is dumb, and I would still rather not answer it. I only have it because there were people in my life who were uncomfortable with me driving two to three hours to attend class in a big city. It’s saved me three times from being stranded on the Interstate–so it’s done it’s job. It’s existence is justified.

            But I have no desired to be as connected as a smartphone allows; nor would I ever read a book on one.

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          • acflory

            High Five! The Daughter and I have phones for emergencies too. Most of the time we use the landline because it’s cheaper and because we really don’t talk on the phone much at all.

            That said, I have found 2 unexpected uses for this smartphone of mine – the camera and the CFA app. The CFA app. allowed me to keep an eye on possible bushfire emergencies in my area while I’m away from home. It’s also meant to alert me if there is a fire but hasn’t done so as yet [thank god].

            The rest of the functions? No thanks.

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          • Stephanie Allen Crist

            It sounds like the CFA app falls under the category of emergency.

            I have a weather app on my Kindle Fire, but we’re not really subject to bushfires in Wisconsin.

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          • acflory

            Yes! Exactly. I can see the value of some apps but most just don’t interest me at all.

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          • Stephanie Allen Crist

            Me neither. I prefer computers that are computers…or, at least, laptops. Sure, they’re heavier. But the screen is better. πŸ˜‰

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          • acflory

            lmao – I’m a desktop girl. I love having a huge screen and a keyboard that I can place at just the right height.

            I do admit to liking my smartphone’s camera, and the CFA app [for bushfire warnings]. I suspect that when my life changes with a new job [fingers crossed] I’ll find other uses for my smartphone as well. But I’ll never ‘love’ it.

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          • Stephanie Allen Crist

            I’m moving between two offices right now, so until I can afford a desktop at each location with a cloud drive in between, I’ll be stuck with lugging the laptop around. Besides, it’s been a great way to build up my strength after losing some dexterity to a broken wrist. Of course, it’s been a while, so I’m pretty sure I could handle a “big kid” key board again. πŸ™‚

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          • acflory

            lol – I have never, ever owned a laptop! But I can see how they would be a necessity when you’re on the go. πŸ™‚

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          • Stephanie Allen Crist

            The portability is definitely a plus!

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          • acflory

            My problem with them has always been the keyboard and that tracking ball, or whatever it’s called. 😦

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          • Stephanie Allen Crist

            I was referring more to the fact that genres as they have hitherto been have been primarily a function of publishers and bookstores. With more and more writers selling directly to readers, those kind of classifications are going to blur and merge and (to some extent) fade away.

            This is good, but it’s also bad. Genres make marketing easier; but it also makes pigeonholing easier. Whether it’s more good or more bad, the days of classic genre categories are gone.

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          • acflory

            Ah yes, I see what you mean. I personally think the breakdown of the classification system is a good thing. Back in the days when I went to bookstores, I’d only ever look at the sci-fi/fantasy section. Admittedly that was because I couldn’t afford to experiment with other genres, but still, it did narrow my focus enormously.

            These days I read across so many genres and sub-sub-genres it’s not funny. Most of those books are by indies and I absolutely love the new perspectives the genre-bending allows. πŸ™‚

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  • ideafill.me

    Hi! I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Please get the badge at http://wp.me/p3z6Kf-eL and get more info. Have a great day. πŸ™‚

    Like

  • EllaDee

    First Chapters is great value even when it’s not a freebie. So if readers don’t want to wait until September… I’m terrible at waiitng… they should grab it πŸ™‚
    I’ve already been seduced and sidetracked from reading the rest of the First Chapters by a couple of the featured chapters, to purchase entire e-books – Don’t Tell Anyone by Laurie Boris (whose writing you initially introduced me to and I love) and not just the 4 x Kate Jones Thrillers by DV Berkom but #5 & #6 also… I’m a little behind in reviews though, and Seized by Lynne Caldwell.
    I’ll check out Betwixt… I’ve read and enjoyed a few novels classified at YA, and enjoyed them but I wouldn’t say I’m across the genre πŸ™‚
    Your point about “preconceived prejudices about what kinds of books they like to read” is a good one. If I’d been asked if I thought I’d like the Kate Jones Thrillers, I’d have said probably not, possibly same for Laurie Boris if I’d not read any of her books, as neither aren’t, weren’t my usual fare… but they were just pure enjoyment.
    As with sci-fi/fantasy genre, you’ve opening up my reading world πŸ™‚

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    • acflory

      Trust me, my horizons have expanded enormously in the last couple of years, and they’re still expanding. I kind of think this is the very best part of the whole ebook/indie revolution – we can afford to try different things in a way we couldn’t in the past. I love it.

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  • Jo-Anne Teal (@jtvancouver)

    No convincing needed here! I purchased when it first came out and have been enjoying getting to know writers I only knew from their non-fiction posts on Indies Unlimited. It’s a great collection of talented authors. I hope others will try it out – certainly an easy way to read some great new fiction (oh and great non-fiction with Rich Meyer!)

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  • davidprosser

    Perhaps it’s time I learned to read again instead of spending my time hunched up to this bestial maw before me, no, not the baby, my monitor. It continues to need to be fed without break. OK, that could be the baby.

    I’m not put off a book by the description YA , but only by the content of too much ‘Fang’ which seems to predominate the charts these days.At my age I’m easily jealous of anything with that much tooth.

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    • acflory

      You’ve just made me feel ancient. What is ‘Fang’? Or are you referring to vampires and werewolves? Ditto the ‘yawn’ on those.

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    • Tasha Turner

      I’m put off more by the amount of dystopia and school set books where the teenage angst is overdone in my opinion as well as the lack of female friendships (talking about anything but boys), POC, and gay characters treated as more than tokens… Unfortunately much of that is imitating “adult” books of which I have the same complaint.

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      • acflory

        I’m going to stick my neck out here but I think there is a difference between serious writing and entertainment writing in every genre. I know that’s another bias, and I have nothing against entertainment, it’s just that it doesn’t hold my interest for long. I crave big, meaty themes about life, death and the universe so those are the novels I search for.

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        • Tasha Turner

          I read books that are mostly entertainment, books with big meaty themes, and really good books that manage to do both. My reading really is very eclectic. Across genres and within genres.

          Having POCs, gay characters, and real friendships can be put in books of all 3 categories.

          If you were responding to a different point in my comment sorry.

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          • acflory

            My reading is pretty eclectic too, and getting more so. I’ve just finished reading a fun novel about wizards in the urban world. I enjoyed it immensely, but I may not remember what it was about in a few weeks time, whereas I can remember Hugh Howey’s sci-fi novels quite clearly because they made me think.

            Then again, Hunger Games made me think as well, yet they were also entertaining. -shrug- Oh I don’t know. The more I think about these definitions the slippery-ier they become!

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  • Yvonne Hertzberger

    That’s what makes this book so great. I think a lot of folks will get surprises – pleasant ones. πŸ™‚

    Like

  • Candy Korman

    I’ve been reading outside my comfort zone all year. It’s been a very interesting experience. Will check out the first chapters.

    Like

  • Colin

    I find the term β€œYA novel” a bit offensive, to be honest. I don’t quite know why. I’ve read quite a few YA novels; everything from Junk (by Irvine Welsh) to Hunger Games. But it is such an American term, such a belittling term. As if 16-17 year old people should have a category of books that is simpler, plainer, more immediate. If I could read Tolkien at the age of 14, then I could read Solzhenitsyn. I don’t need a dumbed down emotional book I can β€œrelate to” only because I’m young and dumb. πŸ™‚

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    • Tasha Turner

      Technically YA has to do with the ages of the main characters. It does not have to mean the book is dumbed down. It frequently also indicate less explicit sex. Writers of YA don’t always dumb down the books. Tamora Pierce comes to mind as a YA author who does not condescend to the readers. Many teens like to read books about kids their age. I remember Trixie Belden… Most of my peers were reading the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. If anything YA is more interesting than what kids that age were steered towards when I was a teen. Not what I was reading but I was not the norm among my classmates.

      New Adult is growing as the earlier YAers are off to college, getting 1st jobs, married, kids.

      Boomer lit is taking off for “the more mature” like my parents who might prefer reading books with protagonist in their age group and dealing with retirement or starting new ventures now that they don’t have to work for someone else 40 hours a week.

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      • acflory

        To be honest, what has put me off YA books in the past was often the covers, and the connection I made in my mind to those truly awful movies aimed squarely at YA’s.

        Clearly I have to rethink my definitions. Question though. One of the main protagonists in Laurie Boris’ novel Drawing Breath is sixteen but I just can’t see it being YA. [Just for the record, Drawing Breath is one of my favourite books].

        Haven’t really tried any NA or Boomer Lit but as I’m heading towards my 61st b’day I probably should.

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      • Colin

        It’s not so much about dumbing down as writing in a particular way. I used to be a part of a google group of published writers. I think they felt pity for me, or maybe they liked me. Or maybe they liked the semi-anonymous figure whose age they didn’t know anything about.

        When they critted my stuff, which was YA, I often got the criticism that I had to change things so that I wrote with a teen’s voice. And a teen supposedly used simpler language. More direct language. That always made me laugh. Or despair. Maybe I fail utterly at being a teenager. What do I know? πŸ™‚

        Of course, when they found out about my age, they stopped “being mean to the kid” and stopped giving me useful feedback, so I had to leave.

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        • acflory

          Well… you really don’t sound like a teen, or at least not like any teen I’ve ever known. Both my Daughter and Nephew were rather precocious too but you beat them hands down.

          The point about what is a teen though… that is a really interesting question. Tasha said something about YA being defined by the age of the protagonist, but as you’ve just proved there is no such thing as one size fits all amongst teens so how can you pitch a story to them?
          Is it maybe the coming of age theme? Yet why should personal growth be restricted just to teens?
          All questions I’ve never really thought about before.

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    • acflory

      I know where you’re coming from Colin. I certainly had that perception of YA novels as well. I still can’t help thinking there may be a fair few YA novels that are dumbed down so young people who don’t read [much] will be able to relate, but that shouldn’t taint the genre as a whole. A good book is a good book, regardless of classification.

      Of course you, as a YA, are just a tad precious… JOKING!

      Like

  • Tasha Turner

    I read among many genre so I’m fairly flexible as a reader. Most of my preconceived prejudices are against bestselling novels – too much hype almost always means I’m going too find too much sexism, racism, rape-culture, violence, or just be bored to death. A few rare exceptions mostly writers who were mid-listers who eventually had a bestseller(s).

    I looked at the 1st chapters book but I really prefer short stories based on the worlds than to get part-way into a book and find I have to go buy a book to finish reading. I know sample chapters are becoming the rage, even James Patterson is doing them, but I don’t know. I’m seeing a number of readers complain that they did not realize its what they were getting. Which is hysterical as every one I’ve seen has been spelled out what it was but you know so many readers don’t read descriptions closely as I’ve mentioned on the “English” thread on IU.

    Good for you for finding a good read and giving new things a chance.

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    • acflory

      I may be atypical, but as I read almost exclusively from Indie books now, I see First Chapters as a reference source. If I read something that grabs me it only takes 2 minutes to buy and download it from Amazon – and that’s doing it the harder, manual way without Whispernet.

      Otherwise I try new authors out on the basis of some random recommendation, not always a guaranteed success.

      I’ve actually bought two ebooks that I shouldn’t have simply because I didn’t read the description carefully enough. But that’s not bad out of 157 books on my Kindle. πŸ™‚

      Like

  • Kathryn Chastain Treat

    I love this opening paragraph. I have purchased First Chapters and haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet. Maybe before I start my next book. Until then, I am knee deep in promotion and lining up book blog tour hosts. Thank you for sharing this. It makes me want to hurry up and finish reading the book I have started and get this one opened up.

    Like

    • acflory

      I thought you’d been a little quiet lately! How’s the promotion/marketing going? And how has your health been?

      I’ve started a course and I’ve been knee deep in assignments so my reading has fallen by the wayside a bit too. 😦

      Hope you find something special amongst the First chapters offerings. And good luck with that marketing!

      Like

  • laurieboris

    Augh. For some weird reason, WP won’t let me comment. Anyway. This is one of my favorite opening paragraphs.

    Like

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