Genre Bending

One of the things that catches me up at the end of a project is selecting the best genre for the book. Seems like it should be a no-brainer but it isn’t really. Of the five complete novels I’ve written in The Bucks County Series, all of them have a romantic component, so I’ve listed them under the romantic suspense genre. Nevertheless, all but one are crime stories: mysteries with clues to be followed and criminals to be apprehended. The one exception —Run For It— is even more hard to define; there are elements of suspense and romance, but no crimes get committed nor are there secrets to uncover. What is that? Realistic fiction, maybe? The thing is, I feel like I might be misleading the reader by including the ‘romance’ part in describing the genre.

Do romance readers expect steamy sex scenes? Or is that now classified as erotica? While the stories I write include the development of romance/relationships between my main characters, I abstain from depicting any sort of physical relationship beyond kissing. I think a romance reader might be a little disappointed. In any case, writing romance was never my objective, it was to write a good story in which a relationship might develop. In fact, I have nearly removed the romantic components from two of the five books because I felt the stories could stand on their own without it. I just liked the books better with the relationship left in.

I’m not a good, traditional romance writer and I know it. And perhaps that’s because I’m not particularly traditionally romantic myself. Candlelight dinners? I like to see what I’m eating. Chocolate? Ok, I’ll take the chocolate but not one of those samplers – half the stuff is inedible in those things. Flowers are nice but eventually they will dry up and all the petals will fall off and make a mess. I can never remember where I keep the vases anyway. New jewelry is lost on me – I always wear the same favorite pieces every day. You see what I mean… I feel like a hypocrite writing those sorts of things into my books. My characters feel as silly as I do in traditionally romantic situations.

So how does a romance go in a book by Meg Sorick? Most of my female leads are self-rescuers – they don’t actually need their men to bail them out of their crises. That is not to say my male leads are not capable of rescuing; I like strong male characters, just not Neanderthals. No offense Neanderthals (I hear that’s actually a thing … Neanderthal DNA showing up in all the ancestry testing everyone is having done to find out your real lineage, not the one your grandma lied about. But I digress…) Anyway, except for the non-mystery in my collection, the women find themselves as the target of some sort of criminal activity: burglary, stalking, attempted murder, and finally vandalism/arson. The men are there to help follow the clues, discuss possibilities and ultimately assist in solving the mystery. This is how I like the relationship to develop — the couple works together to overcome an obstacle or withstand a series of terrible events. They will genuinely like and respect each other, they will definitely be attracted to one another and they will learn to trust each other with their very lives. Not a bad formula, I would say. But then I arrive back at the original issue: how to classify the stories I write. I have some thinking to do. And I may give romance a rest altogether after I finish my next stand alone book —a historical novel set partly during World War One. I have plans for a sweet romance in that story, but after that? I think I should part ways with love…

The Chess Game

A ten sentence short story… I also think this one should be expanded before adding it to the collection. Some history between these old friends… 

Every day Abraham Stein set up the chess board in the park. The game was always in progress, but Abraham never accepted offers to play. Every day he sat for an hour, staring at the board, not making a move. At the end of the hour, he would slide all the chess pieces back into the box, fold the board and walk the five blocks back to his apartment at Temple Beth Israel Retirement Home.

The ladies of Temple Beth Israel wondered about Abraham Stein, trying always to dissuade Abraham from his routine. As he walked each day to his appointment in the park, he would shoo them away with a wave of his hand.

One day, after some weeks had gone by, a man in a wheelchair was wheeled by his nurse to the place opposite Abraham in the park. Abraham smiled, without looking up from the board and said, “It’s about time you showed up.”

Saul Rosenberg snorted and said, “I missed you, too, you old meshuggener.”

Abraham pointed to the board and said, “It’s your move.”

Out of Reach

I idly sit and watch from my throne of inertia
While the bridges I so carefully built
Are thoroughly and systematically destroyed
And with them, the pathways are forever cut off,
Leaving one side of the shore isolated from the other
Except for the occasional stone you throw
Which lands harmlessly at my feet
It’s as if the tectonic plates have shifted beneath us
And earth itself has put me beyond your reach

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