Labels, Love, and Werewolves, Oh My

I hate labels. Absolutely hate them. Yet, as a Romance author, I’ve found we get locked into genre labels. The heart of Romance is that you shouldn’t be able to label it as this and that. The core essence of any romance novel is the relationship of two people finding each other. Sure, I know labels help readers find the books they love to read, but it also narrows the view readers can have about certain books.

Hey, I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to what I read. I tend to skip over certain genres because they just don’t appeal to me. In doing so, I’m cheating myself of what could be some amazing reads. It all boils down to the fact, that we DO judge books by their covers. I will say this, since becoming an author and interacting with my peers, I’m more open to those genres that once held no interest to me. So, I guess you could say I’m judging a book by the author. Not sure if it’s any better than what I did before, but I’ve become more open minded in my reading choices.

All that said, what do I write? It would be so easy to say I write Paranormal Romances with a comedic bent. It would be the truth, but it would only be part of the truth. The whole truth is I write books about relationships. Okay, there’s some funny and a lot of adventure in my books. Whether dressed up with fangs or fur, my stories revolve around two people not looking for love but finding it nonetheless. Love is perhaps the hardest thing to discover, let alone keep a hold on once you get it. Love is the miracle of miracles.

Sometimes, Romance Novels just give you the hot and heavy portion of the story of love. You get the initial rush of two people meeting and the passion that attraction puts them through. Rarely, do you get the long trip it takes from love at first sight to I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Okay, you do but it’s like I said the rush, an abbreviated synopsis of how love really works. Let me say this, love is work. Hard work that takes both parties involved to make love succeed.

Love is passion. It’s caring. It’s frustrating sometimes, but worth the headaches, heartaches and moments that you ask yourself why am I going through this. The answer to that question is so simple most people miss it. Love is knowing that your life without that other person is a painful shadow of how life should be. You’d be half of who you should be. Opposites attach for a reason. It takes someone unlike you to fill the void of all the parts of you that you can never be. Two people just alike would be boring. In my own life, I can tell you this. It takes someone to kill the spiders of this world and it takes someone standing on a chair yelling ‘kill it, kill it’. Two people yelling ‘kill it’ would be a sad thing to see. See, like I said, love is all about total completion.

In 2007, I decided I wanted to tell the story of just that. I wanted to show two people who fall in love in that rush, but I wanted to tell it all the way through. From the heat of their first meeting to will you marry me and follow through to the big day where the ‘I do’s’ are said. Such was born The Southern Werewolf Chronicles. Remember I said I dress things up, this time the story is told fur covered. Why Southern? Because that’s where I’m from, and I try to write what I know. Why werewolves? Because, I’m hairy and werewolves have always appealed to me. My wife on the other hand isn’t hairy. She really wanted me to make that point clear. Why? Because, for me to write what I know, I turned to the greatest love story I know. My own.

Honestly, before my wife, I had no idea what true love was all about. I had vague notions, but nothing concrete. I’d been reading Romance Novels since I was sixteen, so I thought true love was either about Scottish Highlanders or Sheiks sweeping women off their feet. Being born and bred in the south, I doubted the call for kilts or flowing robes would win me a woman’s heart. Get me thrown in a padded room with a pile of restraining orders — yes. See, I needed help. My wife was patient and married me in spite of my weird views on romance and a room full of geeky baggage. Really, there is a room of geeky baggage. I call it my man cave. Jenn calls it my Geek Cave.

So to tell the heart of our story, I didn’t go for the realistic story of how we met and eventually fell in love. As great as it was, I had to go plaster a fur coat on it and instead took the essence of who we are inside, and ran with the story. The funny thing is I’m not sure who is who when I finally finished the series. After sixteen plus years of marriage, we’ve kind of grown together into one person. She’s adapted some of my habits, and I’ve assumed some of hers. But, isn’t that the truth of love. When it’s true and lasting, two people cease to exist and they become one. They become so in sync with each other, they can’t function without the other. It is my hope as readers experience my tale of true love that is the three parts of The Southern Werewolf Chronicles, some of my theory comes across.

In Were Love Blooms, two people meet. Were the Moon Don’t Shine, two people fight impossible odds to stay together. Finally, in Were Love Finds You, those same two people prove that love is worth fighting for and is the ultimate expression of two little words that means forever if you have the right person to share it with.

So, back to labels, before you slap a label on a book because of the cover or title, read a little bit under that cover. You might discover that the story of true romance isn’t defined by genres but by the heart of love you find in its pages.

To celebrate the end of my Southern Werewolves, over the next few weeks, I’m going to give some DVD type extras. I think one of the most asked questions any author faces is where do you get your ideas. So, I’m going to tell you. Well, tell you without giving too much away. Half the fun of writing these books, any book, is where the ideas really do come from. Just in case, you haven’t read the first two books, here is the link to my Desert Breeze Publishing Author Page. You can find them and my other books there or at any online bookseller of your choice.

Were 3 final

Thanks for listening to my ramble and have a great week!

The Joy of Growing up in a Bookstore

Growing up, Bookstores were as close to magic as I could get. They were like Christmas year round. It didn’t matter when I went, like on Christmas Eve, I couldn’t sleep the night before imagining what I might find. What magical world I’d discover to visit. Who I might become in the pages of my newest book. That pent up excitement would last the entire drive to whichever bookstore we were heading for.

The best part, well aside from getting a book, was the bookstores were small, and all locally owned. That meant we were all on a first name basis. The owners knew us, and we knew them. They also knew who and what we read. This was before the time of big chain bookstores. The whole process of buying a book was interpersonal. It wasn’t just new booksellers but used bookstores. Even then, if you wanted to read books from the early part of the Twenty Century, a used bookstore was the only place you could find the authors who most readers have never head of today. No, Amazon or Ebay to hit up. Sorry folks, these were the olden days.

It was at used bookstores, I discovered Burroughs, Howard, Asimov, McCaffrey. The problem with small bookstores even then was they didn’t have room for everything. Sad thing is the problem now extends to big chain bookstores. It feels like if an author isn’t on some important best seller list, you will never find them on a shelf. Used bookstores were the home to just about everything, including comic books. With an allowance of only a couple bucks, I could walk in and leave with two books and a nice stack of comics. And, again, the owner recognized us. You could stand around and talk books without the hassle of someone saying anything. The owners were readers and usually had an opinion to share on authors, books, and what you might like.

In today’s bookstores you’re lucky to find someone to help you find a book, let alone express an opinion on books. Most of the time if they can do either, it sounds like they’re giving you a retread review from a company newsletter. I know that might sound harsh, but what one of us hasn’t gone into a bookstore and been blinded by racks of books either inspiring a New Major Motion Picture or serialized books inspired by a movie or television show. Where are the hidden gems that can truly inspire the imagination any more?

I will freely admit, I do read books off the bestseller list. Some I started reading before they hit the list and some I’d picked up based on what someone has said. It takes a lot for me to trust opinions expressed by a lot of people based on them watching the movie. Sadly, that’s mainly what you get. Oh, I saw the movie so the book must be great. Sure, they’re probably right, but still. The sole exception to that statement might be Lord of the Rings. Those movies are awesome, almost as awesome as the books. Why? Because you can tell Peter Jackson read the books and loved them enough to keep more than just the heart of the books in the motion picture. Very few movies come that close. I’m going to just say at this point Beautiful Creatures was such a disappointment to me, I walked out of the theater. So, if you’ve seen the movie and loved it. Trust me, the book will freaking blow you away!

But, I’ve digressed. Back to bookstores. I worry about the future of reading. When I go into the local bookstore giant, I seldom see children looking at books. No, I see them in the toy department hawking movie and cartoon tie-in toys, while their parents shop for ‘How To’ and ‘Self Help’ books. Those sections seem to grow while Science Fiction and Fantasy seem to have become a small two rack aisle. Even Romance has become a dwindling section. Sure, that might have something to do with the boom in eBooks, but I started to notice the trend long before Kindle and Nook became the new big thing. Gone are the days when bookstores were small houses of magic. They smelled of decaying newsprint and fading ink. My friends that is the smell of nirvana. Now, you smell coffee or designer scented candles and lose the book smell altogether.

So if the days of the personal touch are gone, where can you find the worlds inside a book cover that don’t read like every other book on the shelf? Even when something original does make it into the public reading consciousness, companies instantly throw out a hundred books just like it. You don’t get a chance to truly enjoy the breath of fresh air before being overwhelmed by a flood of the newest same old same old.

Back in the day, authors were original and unique. You had to be to get the attention of discerning readers. Sure, everyone wanted to be Tolkien, but authors knew better than to try. Instead, they came up with their own worlds, their own take on fantasy. Same with Science Fiction. From the middle part of the last century we got, Herbert’s Dune, Heinlein’s Future History, Asimov’s I, Robot, among other masterpieces, Bradbury’s, just Bradbury’s genius, McCaffrey’s Pern, Clarke’s Rama, Niven’s Engineers and the Mote in God’s Eye. Fantasy gave us Leiber’s Lankhmar, Howard’s Cimmeria, Moorcock’s Elric and the Eternal Warrior, Asprin’s, Myth Adventures and Thieves World, Stasheff’s Warlock, Springer’s Book of Isle series. These are but some of the books that inspired my young imagination to thirst for something new and different. The great thing is most of these authors and their works became mine because of a man or woman who didn’t get a check from a huge corporation, but from loving books enough to open not only a store to sell them but from sharing their love of reading with others.

Now, Science Fiction and Fantasy are lumped together as one genre instead of the glorious two they deserve. In fifty years, will we even remember half the authors making a buzz today? Sure, some of them, but most will sadly be forgotten.

I’m going to suggest this, not because I am a writer who is labeled as an Indie or small press author, but because I AM a writer labeled those things. Instead, of picking up the latest big thing next time you check out a book, go beyond what people expect you to read. Read what other readers want you to read. Want you to read so they can keep on reading their favorite authors because others see the magic in them. Support small independent press authors by giving them a shot at your hard earned money. Why? Because they’re writing that something new and original the print publishing houses are afraid to take a chance on, because instead of judging literature on its merits, they’re judging it on sales margins, growth charts and market trends.

I’m going to take a chance here, and invite you who are reading this to share your favorite authors who people might not know about. Share your love of reading with others. For just this once, let my blog be your locally owned bookstore, and you be the person who gives someone the gift of reading something truly new and amazing.