10 Cross-Genre Novels You Must Read

crowdfund hindsightsWhen I opened my crowdfunding campaign for Hindsights, I used the term “cross-genre novel.” The term “crowdfund” is now a mainstream word along with more ridiculous millenialisms such as “bae” or “yolo.” SMH. Crowdfund, unlike these two, is a wonderful word for those who find success. And a sick joke for those who fail.

Since we all know what crowdfunding means (an advanced form of begging using computers and social media), let’s explore that term “cross-genre.” I define my book as a cross-genre piece, and I imagine most serious authors would like to place their work into that category. And who can blame them? Placing a novel into a single genre pigeonholes that novel; simplifies that novel; seems to minimalize its contribution to literature. TooManyPigeons

Simply put, cross-genre means it doesn’t fit into a single genre of literature. Some cross-genre mixtures become standard fare. Science fiction/fantasy has become so familiar that people often don’t think twice. The Star Wars enterprise shows one way we mix fantasy (sword fights and magic) with sci-fi (lasers). On the television/movie theme, we might look at Firefly/Serenity or the surprisingly good Cowboys vs. Aliens as a cross-genre western/science fiction. But for those of us who prefer to let our imagination supply the visual effects, here is a list of cross-genre novels everyone should read.

1. Slaughterhouse Five

slaughterhouse 5This novel about the bombing of Dresden days before the end of the World War II and about the veterans who lived through the war and this raid tops my list. (Historical note: The bombing of Dresden was far more devastating by death toll than Nagasaki or Hiroshima.) Not only is this one of the best cross-genre novels ever written, but I also list it as one of my favorite novels ever written. From the moment Vonnegut tells us “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time,” we know that this is an uncommon approach. Poor Billy Pilgrim is flung between the war in Dresden and Europe, his life as an optometrist, and the planet Trafaldemore. Or maybe he isn’t. Between the head injury and the shell shock, we can’t be sure. This story about PTSD or alcoholism or time/space travel is my benchmark I hope one day to reach.

2. The Time Traveler’s Wife

ttwOften, when someone asks what “cross-genre” means, people will simply cite this book. Probably because it is also a movie. Personally, I would not consider this cross-genre, but “magical realism.” That style allows for realistic worlds with a few magical or at least extra-real elements that drive the story. In this book, the male lead is pulled backward and forward through time. Constant to most of his trips is his future/past/current wife. They fall in love after he meets her and when she has known him for years. As their love buds he forgets it and then disappears while she waits for him to meet him the normal way, bu…. Actually, it’s probably best if you just read it. It’s like Doctor Who with less running.

3. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

ahlvhI am… well maybe ashamed isn’t the right word, but I haven’t read this book yet. It’s on my shortlist. I watched the movie when I was on a business trip because I thought it would be good for a laugh with a few beers (like Sharknado or Snakes on a Plane). I was surprised to find a complex and rather engaging story. With Lincoln killing vampires with his silver-coated ax. As ridiculous as it sounds, the premise is engaging and approaching historical at times. Unlike the above book, there is no doubt this is a cross-genre piece.

4. Cloud Atlas

cloud atlasNo discussion of cross-genre fiction would be complete without this book. Which is odd as it is absolutely not a cross-genre piece. Genres like the terms “good” or “bad” books are relative and subjective. Mitchell’s piece is interesting (even if the movie wasn’t) due to the strange story arc that brings us through stories in a plotline tied my reminiscences of characters. I think people consider this cross-genre simply because parts of it happen without a lot of obvious science fiction. At the end/beginning/middle, the storyteller lives in a world seemingly devoid of technology. We would call this dystopian science fiction. One portion happens in current-day, but because it ties in as a back story to all else, we cannot really separate it from the science fiction. Still, this book is worth a read and probably a second read so you understand what just happened.

5. Atlas Shrugged

asNow I’ve made my Republican friends happy. This book is well known for its statements on “objectivism” and the opinion that any interference by the government at any time is horrible. Also, John Galt gives a speech (or should I call it a sermon) that spans about three chapters and two hours of my life. My main complaint with this title, and all her books, is simply the way it is almost sanctified by true believers in GOP. Regardless, it is a well-written book (except for the 250 pages of John Galt preaching) that mixes science fiction with political satire (without the humor).

6. Catch 22

c22Isn’t this just pure satire? Pigeonholes and genres are somewhat subjective. Some might say that pigeonhole is actually a shelf while others might say that novel is a drama. I would say we could consider it cross-genre because it has wide appeal. The war aspects of this novel are somewhat hidden, like the bomber dying in the plane, behind many layers of satire. Furthermore, the non-linear storytelling is not typical of satire or war pieces. Personally, I’d put this on your short list regardless of how many pigeonholes it fits into.

7. The Handmaid’s Tale

hmtThough I admit I first discovered this through Hulu, I quickly bought and read the book. Why do we consider this cross-genre? One could easily argue this is a dystopian novel such as 1984 or A Canticle for Liebowitz. The literary style is what sets it apart from its peers. Leaving the word “literary style” for another time, Atwood writes as if Virginia Woolf and George Orwell got together and tried to write a Nathaniel Hawthorne homage novel. If you know what that means, good for you. If you don’t, it means read Margaret Atwood.

8. The Stand

the standDid you think Stephen King only wrote horror? Actually, King frequently jumps genres. Some are horror, some thriller, one landmark book on writing, one (or seven) fantasy novels… The Stand isn’t quite any of these. The virus that kills most of the world seems to be science fiction. However, the reactions by the world are surprisingly, and hauntingly, realistic. Then, from realism he jumps to horror. Lastly, in the final act, he introduces a purely and almost inexplicably supernatural element in Randall Flagg. The broad appeal of this particular book definitely places it in my cross-genre list.

9. Interview with the Vampire

iwtvThis book sometimes finds its way onto cross-genre lists. If you have only seen the movie, you missed out. (The movie is terrible; the book fantastic.) It is, first and foremost, a book about vampires. However, it isn’t by any means a horror novel. Rice manages to mix in romance without sex. There is an unspoken tension here with very adult themes. Louis battles with very complex emotions between Lestat and Claudia. There are hints of taboo subjects (not surprising for anyone familiar with Rice’s early work) such as homoeroticism and possibly pedophilia. But these never develop fully because immortality robs these lost souls of their humanity. It is the artistry of this book that makes it too good to become lost in a pigeonholed genre.

10. The Alchemist

tapcI once saw a review of this book saying, “He just took old stories from others rather than write his own story.” Even if I could find this review again, I wouldn’t embarrass the reviewer by showing the world how ignorant he or she can be. Yes, this novel is partially historical fiction. The constant mix of magic (alchemy) also brings an element of the surreal throughout. Despite this, we might be tempted to try to list it as fantasy except for the artistry of Coelho’s writing. Many people simply hate this book; many people simply love this book. Few are indifferent. Perhaps this is the mark of a truly wonderful book.

11. Hindsights

CoverSee what I did there? This book is less genre-crossing than some and might fall into the category of magical realism. Political satire (the Ayn Rand kind, not the Joseph Heller kind) laces through this novel. Mysteries also abound as Nathan Wald tries to unravel a web of hidden agendas. And don’t forget the love story.

Make this book a reality Click Here to support my novel and claim your FREE COPY.

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Special Post: Army FWWP

 

soldier-robots

Click to read the latest issue. A special congrats to FWWP Author Gary Phillips.

Over the weekend, the latest issue of the Army Future Warfare Writing Project (FWWP) went live. I hope you take a moment to read these groundbreaking pieces of speculative fiction by up-and-coming writers. Maybe you’ll find your new favorite writer. Maybe the writer you find here will become the next Tom Clancy!

And it is OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS.

 

I am very passionate about this project. Why is it important to me? Why should it be important to you?

1. This project innovates critical thinking

A recent article by Bruna Martinuzzi noted that many businesses now seek to hire English and humanities majors. One reason for this change is a preference for communication and critical thinking skills. The Army Press has taken this one step further. The FWWP uses speculative fiction to consider the possible future of warfare.

Though the use of speculative fiction in this way is innovative, the use of fiction to drive critical thinking is quite old. Perhaps the most famous example is “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf. In fact, the quote on my homepage comes from that very work.

2. This supports a better total Soldier

Though this project is open to former Soldiers, Officers, or pretty much anyone with a great idea, FWWP loves publishing Soldiers. I recently received a coin for my finalist essay in the NCO Writing Excellence Program (NCO WEP). An NCO friend of mine, SGT Anonymous, said, “I’ve never seen anyone get something like that in the Army.”

Well, SGT Anonymous, that’s because the program is brand new. Too often, we focus on the shrinking budgets and shrinking force. We, as Soldiers, tend to forget that the Army has made remarkable strides in improving the total Soldier concept with programs such as R2C, Army University, and now FWWP and NCO WEP.

3. This project has a high acceptance rate

More important is the reason why the acceptance rate is high. Editors in this project provide personalized feedback on pieces. Writers know that 99.8% of feedback from publishers is in form reply. “We loved it but don’t want to publish it,” is second in frustrating responses to, “Thanks but it’s not right for us.” Acceptances, .1%. Personalized responses, .1%.

FWWP frequently works with authors on revising works to make them stronger. If personalized responses are rare, revision requests are nearly unheard of. This is a common occurrence at FWWP.

4. It builds experience

I asked to work with this project to build my CV (or curriculum vitae). However, all our writers gain a writing credit for their CV, resume, or LinkedIn profile.

Tapping Your Readers’ Psychic Power

HS3 TS

Marketing for Hindsights: Lies aren’t 20/20 began yesterday. You can view my Publishizer campaign to preorder a copy. As part of my marketing campaign, expect regular posts over the next 43 days on the theme of psychics and writing. If I reach 250 preorders, I gain 41 queries backed by promised sales. In other words, I’m working to make this book something you can discuss around the water cooler or on Facebook.

Hindsights, to put it simply, is about psychics fighting to navigate the real world. Main character Nathan Wald finds that being a human lie detector doesn’t help him understand the truth of the hidden agendas and conspiracies surrounding him. Will he become what he hates or maintain his integrity?

Great writing hinges on how well a writer portrays a world rather than explains a world. New writers often make two fatal mistakes. Editors reading their short stories see these two mistakes and politely turn them down with a form rejection.

First, they fall in love with the world they created. Most of have been in love at one point. You may have mixed opinions depending on what Shakespearian play you lean towards in philosophy, whether you are still in love, or whether you were formerly in love.

More importantly, we have all known that one couple newly fallen into puppylove. They plague us with the wonders of their new love, pain us with pet names, and relate everything to the wonders of their new love. We feel we cannot criticize them; weren’t we that annoying once? (Probably not.) At any rate, this infatuation denies us the right to criticism. As annoying as “no you hang up first” becomes, this infatuation an author may develop for their own world destroys a story.

home jpgAnother way for us to consider this is as experts in their own fictional world. Expertise in the minutiae of one’s fictional world is essential; telling everyone about all the minute details of your world is not essential. In my day job, we have certain specified experts called Warrant Officers. These are generally good people (and generally excellent at golf) unless you start to discuss their field of expertise. Though it may be important and even interesting how quantum mechanics affect the viscosity of the engine oil, it doesn’t help us turn the engine on. We excuse this type of passion in our technical experts, even encourage it; for writers, it is a cardinal sin.

The second mistake infatuated writers make is the information dump. This comes from a mistaken understanding of story structure. We learn in school that a story goes through exposition, conflict, complication, climax, and resolution. Novice writers often misunderstand the role and form of exposition. Facts may be interesting, fascinating, part of a colorful canvas of the world and still be completely irrelevant. Conversely, they may be entirely relevant to the backstory, but not interesting. Take for example the Lord of the Rings trilogy. When is the story of the seven dwarvish rings told? This forms an essential part of the narrative, but to my memory, the entirety of the story in the novels is “they are lost.”

Your readers are, in a way, slightly psychic. Though the story may include minute details explaining why your planet spins counter to its rotation around its star, does that information advance the plot? This type of storytelling–where omniscient exposition forms a long and indispensable part of form–is at best antiquated.

New writers often mistake the value of these sections because many classics use that very style. Dickens likes to jump into disconnected scenes with little warning, but these passages still slow or obscure the real story. Victor Hugo pulled it off in Les Miserables. Though barely. The story of the priest drags the reader down a rabbit trail that barely connects to the story of Jean Valjean. This information is relevant, but not particularly interesting. Similarly, the story of how Thenadier started by robbing dead soldiers is very interesting but barely relevant. Because of what Les Miserables is, because the story is exceptionally expansive, Hugo makes it work. Then again, it’s Victor Hugo. Note that the movie removes nearly all of these details. Modern storytelling must eschew such rabbit trails.

Writers underestimate how much information truly needs to be stated. Genre influences this–hard science fiction often requires more telling of details. Tom Clancy loves to give us all the gory details in books like The Day After Tomorrow (which basically explains how to build an atomic bomb). Established writers have more leeway than up-and-coming authors.

Many details contained in these information dumps are simply unnecessary to the plot even if they may be tangentially related to the story. When an author falls in love with the details too much, he or she may include facts in the plot that seem fascinating or even pivotal to the story which are better left out. For instance, look at the difference between the abridged and unabridged versions of Moby Dick. Melville placed far too much information describing whales, but the book isn’t really about whales at all.

What does your narrative imply? This is what I mean by psychic readers. Many details are clear from context or simply unimportant. Even extremely important facts may be better wholly removed from the story.

For instance: Does your character need a name? You likely answer yes reflexively. How can we have backstory if our character doesn’t have a name? Great. Your character has a name. Does the reader need to know the character’s name? Even Moby Dick starts with the narrator’s name: “Call me Ishmael.” (Incidentally, the name means “God will hear” and was given to the first son of Abraham before God turned the babe and the woman out into the desert. This is a fact Herman Melville–fond of allusions to the Bible and mythology–was certainly aware of. It is likely placed to serve a metaphysical placeholder for the story… But that’s a discussion for another time.) However, when Ahab appears, we hear little more about Ishmael’s life and backstory. What do we really know about Quequeg?

Still, some books, good books, omit even this seemingly critical detail. The most well-known is probably The Old Man and the Sea. We do learn the fisherman’s name, but only after he returns to shore. We learn his name only after we know him.

A better example is Daphne d’Maurier’s 1939, award-winning novel Rebecca–which inspired the Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 best picture of the same name. Rebecca is the late wife of the male lead character. The narrator/protagonist battles this unseen and probably non-existent ghost only to find the only one really haunted is her new husband, and that because of the manner of Rebecca’s death.

Only at the end, the reader notices that the narrator has no name. These are extreme examples by very skilled writers. The novice writer should take special note to question every fact included in a story. How psychic will your reader be? Could they imply what you overtly tell them? Do they need to imply it for the story to move?

The question isn’t what do I need to put in, but how much can I possibly leave out?

Launch!

What better way to re-launch my blog than by tooting my own horn? I also will provide ways for Soldiers, NCOs, or just those interested in Military matters to get published, get noticed, and follow your passion for prose. First, about me. Here it goes:Coin Picture

I got my Coin from the NCO Writing Excellence Program for my finalist essay “Improving Core Research Skills in the Modern NCO.” You must have a CAC card to read the essay.

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For a list of works you can read without a CAC card, Click Here

Legal Writing Teaches True Research Skills

What is the paper about? My essay discussed two issues. First, that neither APA nor MLA closely approximate the Army writing style. The closest academic style to Army writing style is Bluebook, or legal writing. Second, I suggested that teaching NCOs the practice of legal briefing in NCO courses would improve writing and research skills in our NCO corps.

This idea is perhaps not as insane as it sounds. The focus for the past decade has leaned heavily towards STEM–science, technology, engineering, and math–fields.

HS3 TS

To find out how you can support my upcoming novel, Click Here

Though there is certainly nothing wrong with these fields (I have great respect for people who can do more with Calculus than spell the word), education has begun yet one more change. Now, even in elementary schools, we look towards STEAM–the “A” is for arts–focused classes.

Gathering STEAM in with English Majors

The value of an English degree has gone up. This is good news for some of us. Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society states that many employers now seek out employees with degrees in English and the humanities.

Obviously, English majors possess better writing and communication skills. Or at least they wasted a great deal of money if they don’t.

 

fwwp4

Love speculative fiction and the military? Want to get published for thinking outside the box? The Army Future Warfare Writing Program may be for you.

 

Perhaps less obvious is that those majoring in humanities and English have greater research skills. My suggestion to teach legal writing borrows this idea. A paralegal must digest and analyze essentially endless amounts of information. (Paralegals are the ones who actually do most of the writing and research in law: the NCOs of the legal profession. Lawyers are like military officers: they make more money and take all the blame when things go REALLY wrong.)

English majors have similarly challenging tasks. My current class requires that I read three novels and one book on writing in ten weeks. Oh, and write about them. And apply the techniques to my writing. And write about that. If my professor is reading this… You are a wonderful person who will give me an A?

Literary Theory in Real Life

 

ts effects are similar to “having your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick”

Legal writing requires application of specific rules and logic techniques. It is reading by sloloam. Trying to apply literary theory to a work is more like building a brick barbecue out of playdough. Anyone who has tried to make sense of Derrida or Henry James would probably agree that some things are not better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

 

 

This all supports one more reason for hiring English Majors. English majors and those in humanities and legal fields have excellent critical thinking skills.

Touchy Feely?

Matinuzzi’s article also states that English majors are, by and large, more empathetic. If you are not an English or literature major, this may sound strange. However, you cannot truly understand a book until you understand the culture behind the book. English studies and literature teaches you to consider how other cultures think and percieve the world, and it teaches us that there is often more than one right way to view the world, and how we can evaluate those worldviews without passing prejudicial judgement.

Pre-Launch Day

What day is it? If you said “hump day,” you are partially correct. Today is also the official launch day for my Publishizer campaign. (Pre-Launch for my new and more regular blog.) What is Publishizer? This is a crowdfunding site specifically for authors. The site takes “pre-orders” on all books to raise money to publish the book. If an author reaches 250 preorders, the campaign is successful. The book is then automatically queried (which is author speak for they send an email) to 41 publishers.

 

Couldn’t I simply query 41 publishers? Naturally. This platform aids that process by proving to potential publishers that your book will sell. It proves there is a market. And so, your are more likely to find someone to publish.

Authors have increasingly moved to self-publishing these days. The downside to this system is a lack of established market and marketing. It is also almost impossible to get a self-published book on bookstore shelves. Hybrid publishing options such as those through Publishizer have many pros and cons. My hope with this campaign is not only to have my piece available to a wider audience but also to make money.

So what is the book? You mean you’re still reading this? You haven’t already moved to my Publishizer campaign! Very well. I will give you, my loyal reader, a quick look at my third novel.

TITLE: HindsightsHS3 TS

BACK: Being a human lie detector doesn’t make life easier for Nathan Wald. As the truth slowly unfolds around him, this psychic prodigy finds himself swept along by conspiracies, hidden agendas, and harassment. Will Nathan become the what he hates, or maintain his integrity? Forced to constantly re-evaluate his place in the world around him, Nathan struggles to find a place for psychic power, real life, and true love. Only one thing is certain: Lies aren’t 20/20.

GENRE: Science Fiction/Upmarket

LENGTH: About 400 pages

RELEASE: Winter 2016

So go ahead: Take a chance, find a new favorite title, or invest in my work.

 

12 Days To Go

Just 12 days left until the re-launch of my blog. You may notice (or maybe not) that this comes to you from WordPress rather than BlogSpot. Though my BlogSpot will remain active, WordPress offers Publicize where Google currently does not. This means one post to WordPress goes to my Facebook, Blogspot, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

 

So what’s coming in 12 days? I will officially launch my marketing campaign for Hindsights. If you would like to read more, click on “Writing Projects” above. I am planning to create a Publishizer campaign to allow you to buy an advance copy.

Continue reading

Making Good with Bad Movies

Hail the B-Movie. I love ridiculous, over-worked b-movies. B-movies are about fun like super hero movies used to be about fun. However, they don’t always work. You can’t just write a bad movie and expect it to be good….
http://orenhammerquist.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-art-of-ridiculous.html

How Turning your Story Into a Screenplay Helps

Screenplays are a visual medium. On the other hand, isn’t all fiction. Authors would do well to work the unworkable story into a screenplay. Here’s why:
http://orenhammerquist.blogspot.com/2015/08/filmize-your-story-then-novelize-film.html

English as Math?

Do you remember diagramming sentences in Grade school with horror? Perhaps one day, they will make a horror movie about sentence diagrams. (Tim Burton, I’m looking at you.) Until then, we will have to do with my post about what went wrong…and what went right.
http://orenhammerquist.blogspot.com/2015/08/english-as-math-what-were-they-thinking.html

Literature is Dying, Literary Theory is the Cure.


You don t hear much about it any more, but people used to wonder–say five years ago–whether technology was destroying our ability to think critically. More recently, we might ask whether the novel is dead. The best-selling genres today are the relatively shallow story plots of “romance novels” and young adult fiction. Henry James would go unread today, because one does not simply read Henry James. One must re-read Henry James before he can be understood, and read a third time before we know why he wrote this. Modern readers are apt to miss the fact that The Great Gatsby is a homosexual novel because they read it too literally. (Some critics note that though Gatsby is in love with Daisy, Nick s infatuation with Gatsby borders on homoeroticism.) Biographer, writer, and teacher Emily Toth noted that students often ask if Robert  Lebrun in The Awakening is homosexual (because Edna asks her husband if Robert was “gay” when they met), and are confused whether Robert and Edna or Alcee an
http://orenhammerquist.blogspot.com/2015/08/literature-is-dying-literary-theory-is.html