Writing Outside the Perimeter #OTP

“You can become really pigeon-holed in this industry.”—Morris Chestnut

rock dove on surface
Photo by Immortal shots on Pexels.com

Although Mr. Chestnut was referring to the acting industry when he said this, I can assure you it’s true of almost any industry, of almost anything in life. There are pigeon-holes everywhere and if you’re like me, you find that you just don’t quite fit. They are definitely not one-size-fits-all.

You may have noticed a decorator has been by and spruced the joint up a bit. What do y’all think?! Now, while I was perfectly happy with pink peonies on an antiqued door, that didn’t quite tell the whole story of who Dixie is or much about what she writes. I’m southern to the core and while pink flowers speak to genteelness, it doesn’t always speak to the true nature of my writing. Honestly, I’m not always all that genteel, either. Just ask my hubby how many times I’ve had to put a quarter in the cuss jar. As far as my writing goes, it’s actually quite gritty at times and the complete opposite of what one might perceive it should be when seeing a spray of feminine flowers. I have a couple of heroines who are trained assassins.

I knew going into, or back into if you will, this journey a little over a year ago that eventually things would need to change some around here. The reason I knew this is because when I first re-emerged into the world of writing and publishing, I really didn’t know how to define myself or explain what it is exactly that I write. I knew I would have to “brand” myself at some point. While branding is an essential and integral part of showcasing yourself in the writing world, I knew at that point I couldn’t sit around waiting to figure it out. The time was nigh that I peeked back out from behind my screen and began mingling again. I figured forge forward and pick up the slack later.

Later has come to fruition, my friends. Later has come.

I’ve been involved in some interesting discussions via this space the past few days through a couple of blogging challenges I take part in which have touched on the edges of this very subject. While the questions posed weren’t about pigeon-holes, they opened the discussion up to further explore them. It seems most writers and quite a swath of readers agree that the lines which define one genre from another have become blurred over the course of the last few years. That’s not to say they’ve become muddled. Muddled would imply the lines are cloudy or indiscernible. In other words, there wouldn’t be a clear structure or direction. By blurred I mean, and the other writers and readers who’ve commented understand, that stories are being produced that don’t neatly fit into the “industry definition” of any given one genre. Romance is probably the leader in this genre overlap that’s become more the norm than not. The problem I’ve run into on more than one occasion, however, is that submissions and acquisitions editors aren’t as on board with the outside the perimeter style of storytelling writers and readers are embracing with gusto. And, as a writer, if I can’t properly express exactly what my readers can expect from my writing the chances of them testing it out are slim. People want to know what they’re in for.

Today, I’m here to attempt to clarify what my readers are in for if they give me a chance to entertain them. Technically, I fancy myself a romance writer. Not so technically, I’m a bit women’s fiction, a dash of suspense/thriller, a pinch of mainstream contemporary, a drop or two of military fiction, and a heaping dose of romance tossed in. And honestly, some have questioned whether my definition of what constitutes the romance matches what the mainstreamers constitute the definition as being. I am a firm believer that romance is in the eye of the beholder and is a subjective topic. What romance is to one may not be to another. I think there’s room for all the interpretations, but I digress. I also don’t write cookie cutter anything nor do I adhere to a “formula.” Oh! And I believe the more conflict the better. I don’t make the resolve easy for my characters at all. No, sir! They have to earn it.

I have written small town romance, straight up women’s fiction, cowboys, and military romance. Once upon a time I wrote under a pen name, which shall remain unspoken, in the realm of all things erotic. Read into that what you will but I will admit that yes it involved submission and a few leather accessories. I was really rather good at it, too. I even won a couple of bestselling slots here and there. I dabbled in paranormal about eight years ago. It wasn’t my forte, but it was a boatload of fun. I wrote a YA piece dedicated to my nieces who are strong gals just like my heroines. My characters are intelligent and my plots are high-concept. (There will be more another day on smart characters.)

What it boils down to is this. I don’t want to be known as a great this, that, or the other (fill in the blank with a genre) writer. I want to be known as a great storyteller. In order to do that I have to write from my heart and in whatever genre, or not genre, I decide to dabble in that day. When an idea grabs me, I want the freedom to embrace it and allow it to lead me where it will. I don’t want to have to put it away and ignore it because it doesn’t fit inside my “designated box.”

So, what does that mean for my readers past, present, and future? You may only get two or three novels a year out of me, but I can promise you I am dedicated that each of them will be as great a story as I can yarn. They will have intelligent characters navigating a high-concept plot line. The heroes and heroines will be all shapes and sizes and ages. In fact, one of my favorite stories to write involved a couple who were in their forties. He was a Sergeant Major in the Marine Corps on the cusp of a thirty-year retirement. But he’d been away from home so much they barely knew each other anymore. The question was, would they throw in the towel or get to know each other all over again and see if they loved who the other had become? Absolutely not your typical romance story. (This one will be re-released later this year, so be on the lookout!) And speaking of romance, you can expect it will most likely be involved in all my stories on some level. My characters may be farmers, dancers, military men and women, chefs, florists, nurses…If you can think of it, you might see it. There might be action and adventure. You might find yourself in the Pacific Northwest or on the Outer Banks in North Carolina, or on an island in the Pacific Ocean.

If life is like a box of chocolates, my stories are like stocking stuffers on Christmas morning.

No, I don’t fit into the industry dictated pigeon-holes, but I kind of like it out here skating along the edges, defiant in my own way. I’ll miss you, pink peonies, but I’m kind of diggin’ on this black and silver thing the decorator came up with.

Along with finally defining myself, I’m making a few changes in how people can keep up with me. One of my new tools is a handy-dandy newsletter which will come out every other month beginning in April. There may be a special edition for new releases between regularly scheduled mailings. There will be an exclusive giveaway in each letter for my subscribers only. You can get in on the fun by signing up below.


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