First an apology. I've been nagging Dawn McCullough-White to write a sequel to The Emblazoned Red. This is partly because I really like this book and partly because I really like Dawn's work in general. There's something very particular about the experience of reading it; an atmosphere, a sense of presence, that seems to be unique to her style and presentation, and imagination.
My apology is that while I have already mentioned the book on my blog, until today, the cover was not on the right hand column of this page. I don't know what difference, if any, that would make to readers discovering this book that certainly deserves to be discovered, but it's something I ought to have done, and have not.
I'm also apologizing to Ray Kingfisher, whose excellent, slick, funny Easy Money has also not shown on this page. Easy Money is dedicated to the late Tom Sharpe who died in June of this year. If you read it, you will see why.
The Emblazoned Red is a book that manages to combined the defining characteristics of several genres into a coherent, convincing, artfully imagined world. But it really doesn't conform to any of those genres. It reads like a regency romance, but the main character is an armoured knight who fights the undead and falls in love with a pirate.
If you sat down and said: "I'm going to combine vampires, zombies, pirates, paladins and highwaymen into a bodice ripper" you'd surely have a recipe for disaster, but a good book doesn't come from a recipe.
It comes from a strong story idea, that is worked into a strong story; that has characters that you care about, that compel your interest and attention. That is what Dawn delivers. That it takes place in an imaginary world where the difference between living and dead is ... less clearly defined than in our own ... is just part of her creative vision. I find her world-building almost effortlessly transporting even when it is a little sparse. So the lack of a true, defining genre shouldn't represent a problem.
But the organ by which we distribute our works depends on classification. How else can one writer claim he is #1 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Post-Apocalyptic and another be #1 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Steampunk and so on. All this enables readers to find what they want and the maximum number of writers get the maximum of exposure.
Provided they are writing genre fiction. Amazon has a category Books > Literature & Fiction > Literary. Honestly it's a bucket. The last place you want to be if you want to get noticed, and look at any book in the top ten in that category and you'll see that it has a high ranking in two or three other categories.
It's all about the categories.
Which is a pity, I think. I wonder how many readers do not actively seek the next Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Women's Fiction > Sagas or Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction > American... and just want to read a good book, regardless of how it is categorized.
If I searched by category for the the type of book I thought I might like, I'm pretty sure I'd never have encountered any of
Dawn McCullough-White's work.