Apostrophobia and Expat Fears

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Perfection. It doesn’t exist. You know that, right? Not in a single geographical location. Not in writing. There’ll always be a compromise, an error, room for improvement.

Much of my week has been spent pondering an apostrophe. You see, it’s in the wrong place. On the first page of my book, ‘Dunster’s Calling’. How many times have I read that line and not seen the error? How many other people have seen it? How many have since told me not to worry, as they didn’t notice it either? Are they just being kind? Should I recall every book? Refund every purchase? Are the goods so damaged as to negate the entire purpose of the book?

Just stop it, Tracey! It’s an apostrophe, for crying out loud! Look at what’s going on in the world. Should I really be spending another single minute worrying about an apostrophe?

Yes, actually. Because that’s what I do. I write, and there are rules for writing. And I know the rules for apostrophe usage. An errant apostrophe means I have no street cred. I failed.

Now I’m questioning everything. Confidence has fragile wings. If I can’t get the small stuff right, can I be trusted with the big stuff, like where I live? Am I not really suffering from hireth? Is Exmoor not really the perfect fit for me? Have I missed a thousand geographical apostrophes that, if I’d noticed them, would have directed me to consider moving somewhere other than Exmoor? Should I just maintain my expat status here in the US?

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J.K. Rowling saves me. She tells me I can fail and still be okay. I can move back to England and if it’s a mistake, I can go somewhere else. I can miss typos—okay, not too many—and still be a writer. I can try again, fail better, live as an expat, or not, in the liberating knowledge that a perfect decision doesn’t exist.

But imperfection still stings. After all, it’s my name on the cover of the book, or on the relocation decision. The Buck Stop’s Here.

Damn it! I hate apostrophes.

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Something Old, Something New

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When you live far from home, you tend to spend your holidays going … well, home. There’s Mum to see, and Dad to see, and sisters and cousins and friends to see. You want your children to live the other half of their heritage and your non-British spouse to understand your weird jokes about cricket and suet pudding. You want to be part of weddings and funerals and family reunions. So, you go home as often as you can. Your friends in your adopted country think it’s exotic, asking, ‘Are you off to Paris/London/Timbuktu? Lucky you.’

Well, yes and no. A funeral, anywhere in the world, is definitely not exotic. That family reunion? Comes with the same baggage, whether it’s across the planet or down the road. Uncle Albert’s just as you remember him—unfortunately. But you need to be there, so you go. Then, one day, your children look at you and ask, ‘Do we have to go to Paris/London/Timbuktu again?’ And you wonder. Do we? Should we? Have the same lucky forces that made our children dual citizens and/or frequent flyers restricted them in the variety of places they go?

As spoiled as it may sound, as ‘First World Problem’ as it is, when you start recognizing the flight crews, you feel maybe it’s time to reassess your destination. When was the last time you scrolled through the TripAdvisor website looking for a new world to explore? French Polynesia looks so cool!  But what excuse will you come up with when you tell Dad your holiday won’t be spent at home? Of course, your family won’t make a fuss. They’ll understand.

But then it hits you. One day your children will be finding excuses not to visit you. You have a decision to make …

‘Hi, Jackie. Yes, we’re going home again. Looks like a full flight today. How are your kids? Captain Mike okay? Good. Yes, we’ll have the chicken. Same as last time.’

 (Image: Pixabay)

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Hireth-Tinted Glasses

Rose tinted glasses Derek Gavey

I’ve just returned from a visit to England. I wore different glasses on this trip. Not rose-tinted—or is that hireth-tinted?—glasses, but realistic, magnifying, research glasses. I was on a mission to find answers to some important questions: Is Exmoor really the place my husband and I can live? Permanently? With purpose? In harmony with both the natives and each other? All very different questions to the ones I’ve asked over the last few decades: Can we have a great time on holiday? Can the children ride a pony? What time does the tea shop open? Tee shirts or raincoats for the hike?

I began this visit by looking at the area through the lens of a Californian. My husband’s birthplace offers the Pacific Ocean and endless sunshine. Exmoor offers the Severn Estuary and no one’s idea of a perfect climate. I worry he’ll notice. But he’ll also notice the sparkly clear skies and the scent of heather that leave his smoggy air and car fumy smells in the dust.

Big issue: he doesn’t like clotted cream. How could I have missed such a basic character flaw? But will that flaw grow into a major fault line when he lands in this creamy mecca? Will it turn into nights on the couch? Marriage counselling? And is there even a marriage counsellor in Porlock? The organist at our Porlock wedding years ago was the local milkman. Is the counsellor the post lady? I think I need to do more research …

But enough about husbands. What about me?

All I used to need from Exmoor was a horse—make that multiple horses—a place to dance and the occasional train ride to London for more exciting options in entertainment and shopping. Look at me now: a former horse-riding expat, who’s grown used to robust water pressure in showers and twenty-four-hour pharmacies and grocery stores. Dancing? Unless it starts at four in the afternoon, the volume is turned way down low and there’s a selection of fruit teas at the bar, you’re not going to find me in any nightclub. Is Mr. B’s nightclub even still open in Minehead? If I asked a local youngster, he’d probably look at me like I was a visiting professor of prehistoric history. Hey, kiddo, I used to get up at five in the morning, show horses all day, then dance until two the following morning, often repeating the process that same weekend. Oh, and I danced at Studio 54 in New York, by the way. What? No, I don’t need help crossing the road. Clear off! Cheeky blighter.

But seriously, before packing the shipping container with all our worldly goods, we must look long and hard through multiple lenses at our lives. What do my husband and I need to feel settled now? Does Exmoor check new boxes that weren’t even the tiniest consideration decades ago? Like a small community that knows us: check. Opportunities to volunteer, with both local and national endeavours close to our hearts: check. (The National Trust and endangered Exmoor ponies are top of a very long list.)

Montacute Gardens Geograph

We need a place the children will want to visit: check. They’ll be back often—maybe too often. (We stupidly offered to pay airfares.) A place to write: heck yes on that one. And stately homes and beautiful gardens and stone walls and bluebells and cottages and teapots and no one thinking I have an accent and … and … a connection to my heritage. Check, check, and check again.

Oh, and one more thing: peace. We can find that on Exmoor in spades.

My research from this trip tells me Exmoor will work. Unless my husband’s clotted cream issues interfere. I need to go and talk to the post lady. Wish me luck.  

If you want to help the endangered Exmoor pony, visit  http://www.exmoorponycentre.org.uk/. Tell them Dunster sent you.

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Images: Rose-tinted glasses by Derek Gavey, Montacute Gardens by Geograph, Exmoor pony by author

‘Foreign’ Isn’t A Place

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I’ve been asked many times what it’s like to be ‘foreign’. It’s hard to know how to answer because most days I’m not foreign. I’m like everyone around me, complaining about the weather, politics, cost of car repairs, or trials of parenthood. I share my plans for the weekend, the home remodel, the upcoming family celebration. The common ground overrides the accent or the physical attributes.

But then there are days I can’t work out for the life of me how I landed on this alien turf—the days I feel like a complete stranger. It’s the look I get when someone says, ‘You remember the show “Welcome Home, Kotter”?’ Er, no. No, I don’t. It’s when I use a simple phrase like ‘What’s that when it’s at home?’ I may as well have spoken Klingon. It’s wondering if the Schwan’s Guy they’re talking about is some new sit-com actor, only to find out he delivers food to your doorstep. Everyone knows the Schwan’s Guy; he’s part of everyone’s childhood. No. No, he’s not.

But if you’ve never had those moments, of getting in the passenger’s side door and trying to drive the car, of having no idea what that road sign means, of offending without meaning to offend, of just not getting the joke, how does one describe being foreign?

Here’s my explanation. If you look up ‘foreign’ in a dictionary, some synonyms are ‘distant’, ‘far-off’, ‘external’. You can feel all those things without leaving your backyard. It’s not your geography that makes you foreign. It’s the context that makes you foreign.

It’s that first day of college as a ‘mature’ student. You may as well have stepped outside the Apollo capsule. That cocktail party your spouse couldn’t attend, where you stood with the pasted-on smile and laughed too loud, struggled to find a common interest, tried an ice breaker that remained an iceberg.

It’s the changing room at Victoria’s Secret. Who was that person in the mirror? Was she even the same species as the long-legged, huge-breasted, pert-nosed aliens pictured in the catalogue?

Maybe Macy’s (the outerwear section) will feel more like home. But you tried to emulate the latest fashion trend and ended up slinking down the street in something that made you look like a ripe squash of some variety. High fashion is a foreign land. Four-inch heels are a foreign land.  

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Sitting in the doctor’s office-slash-spaceship being told you have cancer or your loved one has dementia. The sense of ‘this isn’t me, this isn’t my life or where I belong’ is universal—whether you’re four thousand miles from home or in the surgery a mile from where you went to high school.

So, what is foreign? Not an accent, or a passport. It’s a feeling. A context. We’ve all been foreign. In the land of our birth. In our homes. In our heads. In our lives.

Now, when I’m asked what it’s like to be foreign, I provide a few of the examples above. And everyone understands. All heads nod.

What does it feel like to be foreign? It feels like being you, when you’re in a Victoria’s Secret changing room.

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Nothing personal, Flamstead.

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Flamstead High Street (image: Fine and Country)

Flamstead is a beautiful English village, situated north of London in the rolling countryside of Hertfordshire. It was my home for the first sixteen years of my life. Quaint, safe, surrounded by bucolic fields full of horses to ride and hayricks to climb, it provided the backdrop for my childhood. So why don’t I think of it as home?

I was born there, went to Brownies there and entered the beauty pageant there in my Spanish dress. I danced around the Maypole there and rode my first pony, Bridie, along every lane and bridle path for miles. I kept score for the cricket club on Sunday afternoons, held all my birthday parties, complete with rabbit-shaped blancmanges and homemade fairy cakes, in the back garden of our house on Singlets Lane.

st-leonards-church-geographSt. Leonard’s Church (image: Geograph)

I walked to tiny Flamstead Junior School through ancient St. Leonard’s churchyard. I competed in the school Sports Day, which comprised of the three-legged race, the egg and spoon race and the mother’s race. For a grand finale, the most adventurous of us would run a lap of the entire school property. It took about forty-five seconds.

I acquired my life-long sweet tooth at Bell Candies, about as Disneyfied a sweet shop as you’ll ever find. Nestled in the bay window of a tiny cottage were the jewels of childhood; white chocolate mice, Blackjacks, Flying Saucers, jelly babies, gob-stoppers and barley sugars. Jars and jars of heaven lined the walls. I stopped on the way to school to spend my pocket money, the owner shooing me out the door if I stayed too long.

I played in Jacks’ Dell, an old crater of unknown origin on the edge of the village. I climbed in, hid in, made forts in, pushed friends in … (Sorry, Paul, about tying you to that dustbin lid and sending you over the edge. Looking back, not one of my better decisions.) I told ghost stories there about Jack the Ripper, who supposedly hid in the dell when he wasn’t busy in London.

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The Spotted Dog (image: Thespotteddog.com)

I listened to Sunday evening bell ringing practice, hung out on the bus stop bench with friends, dreamed about being old enough to drink at one of the local pubs …

I grew up there.

I knew everyone. Everyone knew me.

I left my idyllic village to train to be a horse riding instructor on Exmoor. And I never went back to Flamstead again. Never even looked back. I found my soul drawn to Exmoor like a moth to a flame—in a way it never was to Flam-stead.

I don’t understand why. I have no control over it. It is what it is.

Almost forty years after leaving my birthplace, I offer my thanks and my apology. Nothing personal, Flamstead. You did nothing wrong. You were perfect.

You just weren’t Exmoor.

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Coddiwomple, Meet Hireth

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I haven’t been this moved by a newly-discovered word in … well, forever.

When “coddiwomple” first came across my Facebook feed, I burst out laughing. How could I not? How could anyone not? Just say the word several times. Experiment with accents, like Downton Abbey posh, Scottish Highlander, Texan, Australian. See? You have to laugh.

I’ve taken to wondering around the house saying “coddiwomple” with a Yorkshire accent. Yorkshire is the birthplace of my father. The word becomes a grand substitute for “nonsense”: “Coddiwomple! I don’t believe a word ya saying.” Or maybe it’s a Yorkshire delicacy. I can hear my Great Uncle Dennis now: “Would ya like coddiwomple wi’ that, chuck?”

Why, yes. Yes, I would. (I grew up in Hertfordshire so can’t produce “chuck” with any kind of authenticity. Out of respect for my ancestors, I won’t even try.)

I now find myself using “coddiwomple” multiple times a day. When you work from home, the dogs are the only ones listening, so it doesn’t matter. They understand. But the inevitable happens: I accidentally say “coddiwomple” to the FedEx delivery driver.

“No, no.” I assure him. “It’s not rude. It just means …”

And that’s when the laughing stops. For me, anyway.

Coddiwomple: “To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague, or as-yet-unknown, destination.” It’s now a serious word, a word to contemplate, a trigger for soul-searching. My eyes look to the horizon.

Is that what I’m doing? Am I traveling in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination? Is this another hireth moment?

I am a coddiwompler. I am coddiwompling. Because hireth says I must coddiwomple. I’m striding purposefully towards my vague destination.

Latitude N 51° 12′ 32″ Longitude W 03° 35′ 37″. Porlock. Somerset. United Kingdom.

That’s a bit specific for a vague or unknown destination, surely? True. But not true.

When I really think about it, my destination is unknown, or at best, vague. Do the latitude and longitude for Porlock match the Porlock in my head? The Porlock from thirty years ago? How old will I be when I get back there to live? Will I regret the move? Will friends and family regret my move? Will I fit in?

So many unknowns. So much vagueness. Like taking a familiar path into thick fog.

But, you know what? One serious word is enough. If I want to get all homesicky, I’ll stick with hireth. I’ll save coddiwomple for good laughs. Maybe I’ll start a coddiwompling club. We’ll coddiwomple free, like the Wombles of Wimbledon Common.

“Underground, over ground, coddiwompling free

The Coddiwomples of Withypool Common are we …”

For non-Brits, or those under a certain age, The Wombles was a children’s TV show about a band of furry characters who cleaned up the rubbish on Wimbledon Common. Great theme song! https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=wombles+theme+song&view=detail&mid=F63DC279D804930E3591F63DC279D804930E3591&FORM=VIRE

Pathway into fog image used with permission: Stuart Warstat. For more stunning images of Exmoor, visit http://www.stuartwarstatphotography.co.uk/

Once Upon a Hireth

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As I look back on my first full year of authoring, who’d have thought the feelings of discontent that precipitated my transition could lead to such fulfilment? Wishing to be somewhere else led me here, to this place. But it’s not the place I thought I was looking for, as I haven’t returned to England yet. The place turned out to be an occupation.

This occupation, this writer’s life, allows me to live wherever I want, even if it’s only in my imagination, and that has made living where I reside so much easier. Rather than seeing where I am as second best, I can focus on the joy of writing from wherever I am. The thrill and the freedom of putting visions of home on the page have been liberating. So, though hireth is still present, it’s not present in a stifling way, a distracting way, an I’m-wasting-my-life-somewhere-I-shouldn’t-be way. Hireth is now productive and useful and stimulating. It’s marvellous.

Marvellous.

A word I haven’t used in a long time.  One doesn’t talk about marvellous SUVs, or marvellous weather, or marvellous baseball games in the United States. These things are awesome, not marvellous. Marvellous is a good British sentiment. I catch more and more British words and sayings flowing from my mouth and keyboard now; buried deep for almost thirty years but becoming familiar again. I feel more native, relishing the opportunity to reconnect with my homeland, both linguistically and emotionally. Hireth leads home. Old connections rise to the surface. But not in a desperate way anymore.

I feared at the beginning of this journey, I may just be chasing old feelings, friends, lifestyles, and dreams. That maybe I’d be disappointed as I peered through the scratches and dents of thirty-year-old rose-tinted glasses and realised the need for a new prescription. Turns out my sense of loss and longing, of hireth, hasn’t led just to a search for the past. The real highlight of this first full year authoring has been establishing a new future.

Feedback from readers tells me I’ve tapped into their world in some way. So we are now connected in this new future.This future includes writers, fellow ex pats, Anglophiles, pony lovers, Exmoor lovers, and people who didn’t know they loved ponies or Exmoor, but discovered a new passion in “Dunster’s Calling.” And it definitely includes my fellow hireth sufferers, many of whom have told me they didn’t know the word for their feelings but fully understand the word now. I didn’t know I would find all these kindred spirits. I live each day with every inhabitant of this new world, with great relish and much appreciation. I owe hireth so much.

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I would have missed it all if hireth hadn’t pushed me into this new reality. I’d have missed playing with ponies on Exmoor and talking with Sylvia in Scotland about the North Berwick Ponies. I’d have missed the fabulous Exmoor pony community as a whole. They have embraced Dunster as one of their own.

I’d have missed Natalie in Spain, the first to like a photo or add a comment to my Facebook postings, which begs the question: when does she sleep as there’s a huge time difference between Wisconsin and Spain? I’d have missed June in Seattle, a British ex pat living the American dream, but wondering if she made the right decision. And Rodney, a fellow author, who shared his story about moving back to England after fifty years in the US in my August blog. He keeps me grounded with realistic expectations as I plan my own repatriation. I’d have missed Kelly in Alice Springs, a second cousin I lost track of decades ago, who popped up again thanks to the miracle of social media and a love of reading all things English. I’d have missed so many of you.

I’d also have missed the reviews of “Dunster’s Calling” on Amazon and Goodreads. All of them encourage and validate my efforts. Many are complete strangers to me, such as the reader in Australia, known only by her review name, Caroline. I marvel at how Caroline found me in this sea of books and authors, struggling to swim against the tidal wave of new publications. It is incredibly difficult to get reviews. I’m thrilled with each one. That a stranger so far away took the time to comment on my work is marvellous. Movingly marvellous.

I’d have missed out on the professional development too: my writing group, Tuesdays with Story, the editors and book cover designers, and formatters and conference speakers and website designers who have all contributed to my joy in this new world.

I hear from people who didn’t know they had hireth, but now understand their condition. I hear from people who’ve never heard of Exmoor but who now feel a connection strong enough to plan visits. I hear from people who are planning to return home, wherever that is for them, and those who’ve found new homes that speak to them more deeply than their birthplace. Sharing our stories makes me feel like I’m home. With family. With friends. With kindred spirits.

So, is home a published novel, a website, and an author Facebook page? If you’ve never felt the need to write, that notion will seem trite. And I know my pull towards England won’t abate. But for one who felt something was missing for so long, this new “writer’s home” is … marvellous.

Happy New Year.

And the Good Citizen Award goes to …

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Immigrants. Emigrants. They’ve been around forever. Just part of living on a planet whose inhabitants are capable of inventing trains, planes, and wooden canoes. But in both the United States and the European Union, it seems immigration is the number one topic of 2016. Who’s in? Who’s out? Who’s welcome? Who’s not? Almost makes you miss the Kardashians, doesn’t it?

So, here we are, sorting through the implications of the Brexit vote and the recent US presidential election. And though both these events are only partially defined by immigration, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about what makes a good citizen, regardless of country of residence or country of birth. I ask myself: What Would Dunster Think? (If you haven’t read Dunster’s Calling, Dunster is an Exmoor pony who’s so much smarter than most of us. And he wouldn’t care where you were from, as long as you brought sugar lumps with you. But I digress …)

Good citizens can surely be defined. They behave in a civilized manner (even when Santa’s not watching), pay taxes, follow the law, and make a concerted effort to respect others’ opinions. They educate themselves, donate to charity when they can, contribute time and talent to their communities. Pick up litter. Help any living creature: neighbours, dogs, hedgehogs, Kardashians. They only laugh at others if they accept that others can laugh at them.

But is all that enough to be a good citizen? Apparently not.

To be a fully-fledged, able-to-vote, good citizen, you see, one needs a piece of paper. One needs a document that states said person has raised a hand and sworn allegiance. Oh, and paid an exorbitant fee. Take a look at the oath one is required to take to become a US citizen:

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.” (Source: uscis.gov)

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But where are the hedgehogs? The neighbors? The conflicting opinions? Where’s the charity, the contribution, in anything other than a military sense? Where’s the kindness, the love for one’s fellow man? Where’s the commitment to laugh at the Joe Biden memes, no matter who you voted for? Where’s the agreement not to complain if you have your piece of paper but didn’t vote?

I’ve struggled with this rather myopic official concept of citizenship for twenty-five years. I’ve met many others who also struggle. We ask ourselves: are we fully-fledged good citizens even though, on paper, we are only permanent residents? Are we allowed to question, cry and laugh, even share those memes, if we don’t have that citizenship document but abide by all the other criteria of citizenship?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Whether you’re a citizen or not.

(Image credit: clipartbest.com)

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Falling Pounds, Rising Maltesers

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What does the post-Brexit drop in the value of the pound mean? Well, to those living in the United Kingdom, it’s a bit of a worry to say the least. But to the contingent of British expats living in DollarWorld, it means something quite different … more Maltesers.

In my completely non-scientific study of several expat Facebook pages, nothing is as likely to get a love reaction as a photo of British sweeties. Next comes a “proper” Sunday lunch, followed by anything covered in custard. So, when the falling pound could have us turning to thoughts of a second home, sending money to Mum, or buying sterling to make the next trip home an upgraded dining experience (with admission to the expensive, but oh so worth it, Harry Potter Studio Tour!), why have we turned to extra-large deliveries of Maltesers to our US homes?

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Simple: a packet of Maltesers eaten in the deserts of Arizona or the blizzards of Wisconsin bathes the muncher in familiar comfort. That first bite into the little round ball of malted honeycomb wrapped in chocolate, or a taste of that Crunchie Bar or that Quality Street selection or that clotted cream or whatever your favorite British treat is, and you’re back home. You’re five years old and pulling a cardboard stocking full of Cadbury’s from under the Christmas tree. You’re nine years old and stopping at the sweet shop on the way home from school to spend your pocket money. You’re eating the two chocolate covered digestive biscuits your mum put on the side of your tea saucer when the hamster died. You’re a teenager, shoveling custard and Christmas pudding into your mouth, laughing with Grandma the last year she shared the festivities with the family. You’re wrapping that Crunchie bar in birthday paper because it was your dad’s favorite. The Battenberg cake takes you to that little tea shop; marmite takes you to toasting bread over the fireplace during the coal miners’ strike-induced power outages of the 1970s. And every bite takes you to the first time you shared these treasured, tasty memories with your own children while introducing them to the other half of their heritage. As you taught them to put the “T” in Battenberg instead of the American “D.” As you taught them to put clotted cream on first then the jam, depending on whether you were visiting Devon or Cornwall. As you taught them to experience the life you left behind, but the life that is still hardwired into their DNA. You hope.

So postings of the latest box-full of home goodies abound, along with the excited chatter of how much more we got for our money. Because a simple Malteser is edible proof that the falling pound can be a positive for some, and that in a native galaxy far, far away, you existed.

For a brief mouthful, the tigers of hireth are held at bay.

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Genre-Confusion and Ceiling Dusters

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I’m confused about my genre; you know, that categorical box your novels are supposed to fit neatly inside? Genres let the reader know whether they’re going to get grimace-inducing blood and guts, heart-pounding suspense, or Kleenex rash. They help your audience find you. Or is that help you find your audience? Either way, it’s important. But I’m finding specifying a genre much harder than I thought it would be.

I assumed the primary category for “Dunster’s Calling” would be a no-brainer: women’s fiction, right? Because I was writing for people like myself and I’m a woman and the story is made up, so it’s fiction. “Not so fast, Rookie Author Lady!” Apparently, there are many who feel there shouldn’t be a gender delineation here. Jane Austin didn’t say she wrote “women’s fiction.” She wrote fiction. And maybe in her day, lots of males in tail coats and cravats sat in drawing rooms and read her books out loud to other males in tail coats. I don’t know many males reading Jane Austin today, do you? But I thought it was appropriate to label my novel “women’s fiction,” given that it is a major category in today’s literary market.  But then, awkwardly, several men have said they enjoyed reading “Dunster’s Calling.” Well, that puts a real spanner, or fountain pen, in the literary works, doesn’t it? Darn my all-encompassing appeal to the masses! So with the jury out on the whole “women’s fiction” thing, let’s skip over primary genre and try checking a few sub-category boxes.

I can’t really say I’m a romance writer. The focus of my stories isn’t on smoldering looks or breaking out in sweats; a throwback to my upbringing in the Victorian eraor was it the 1960s? I get those two confused. I’m not historical fiction, not thriller, or mystery, or LBGT, or … oh, drat it. I’m not really categorically anything that Amazon would consider outside the general fiction box. If you plug “general fiction” into any search engine, you’ve just narrowed down your search to about two million books. So this Rookie Author Lady is swimming upstream with two million other literary trout. How could anyone not find my drop of literary genius in that general fiction ocean? Don’t answer that.

So I need to think again. “Forge your own path, Trout Lady!” Wait, I liked Rookie Author Lady better. “Forge your own path, Rookie Author Lady! Write about searching for home, about longing for home, about hating home, about running away from home, about the grass being greener on the other side, either really greener or just perceived to be greener. Write Home!” (Pause for standing ovation.)

But what should I call that? There are no dropdown boxes on my publishing dashboards for “Home” or “Greener Grass.” Then it hit me: Geographical Romance. That’s my genre! I write about searching for the place that makes you hot and sweaty, or cool and calm, or whatever it is you feel when you meet your soul place. So now, armed with my genre, lots of readers will find me, right? Except “Geographical Romance” doesn’t have a dropdown box, so that means a search through general fiction, which means I’m back to being Trout Lady.  But here’s one thing that makes me stand out: when you type “Dunster’s Calling” into Amazon in “all departments” it wants to know if you mean “duster, ceiling.” You’ll be shown a lovely picture of a long handled fluffy mop cleaning a ceiling fan. Did I mean that? Some Freudian slip maybe? I don’t know. I just want you to know I’m out there, looking for you, whatever your genre.

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