Category Archives: Genre Topics

Post-Apocalyptic vs. Dystopian Part II – What Is the Difference?

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 10.57.20 PMGuest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

(In Part I of this post series I discussed whether the difference between post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories matters. Arrow back for that.)

What is the difference between the post-apocalyptic and dystopian genres?

I found some interesting blog posts about this particular subject. Although I don’t agree with all their definitions and examples, these are three of the more helpful and well thought out blogs on the subject. The YA Highway admits to using Dystopian because it’s easier to spell although not accurate (and explains). Julie Kagawa, who authored a “dystopian saga” is emphatic about the differences, and author Rachel Tsoumbakos saw others tagging her book variously and wrote a post to clarify and differentiate based on the books relationship to Horror and target audiences (Adult vs. YA).

So, how do I personally think the categories should be defined? Thank you for asking.

Post-Apocalyptic: A story directly after/during an apocalypse. This should not be a thousand years after, but recently. One of the appealing qualities of true post-apocalyptic stories is the fact that the main characters know how bad things are. They lived before the apocalypse and truly grasp all that has been lost. Their horror is our horror.

Dystopian: A story about a reality/future that is not right. As opposed to a post-apocalyptic story, the main characters typically do not know that something is wrong with their world at first. Part of the appeal of the dystopian story is the characters discovery of how things are wrong and possibly a previous better world. Dystopian stories are frequently tied to something in our world/reality taken to an extreme. Sometimes dystopias emerge from a post-apocalyptic world, but enough time has passed that there are few reliable memories of Before.

Are there stories that fall into both categories? Certainly, but they are fairly rare. Margaret Atwood’s Madd Adam Trilogy comes to mind because the first two books are about a fully developed dystopian world that subsequently endures an apocalypse. It is only in the third book that it transitions into a post-apocalyptic tale.

Both of these fiction categories in my opinion are incredibly rich and difficult to do well. Neither category is considered mainstream, but fans of each are loyal and voracious in their reading. Nearly every reader of these categories could give you a list of the favorites and I also have those that I love best as I’m sure you do.

Keep watching for my guest posts here as I write a post-apocalyptic book review and a dystopian book review each month. I will limit these to books I would recommend others read. I’m always interested in discovering good books in each genre and hope to help others in a similar manner.

You can look over the first post-apocalyptic review here. Until later, keep reading my friends.


Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.


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Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Genre Topics


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Post-Apocalyptic vs. Dystopian Part I – Does the Difference Matter?

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 10.36.38 PMGuest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

Several weeks ago I wrote a guest blog (P is for Post-Apocalyptic) where I discussed post apocalyptic fiction. In that post I talked about how post apocalyptic fiction has very recently become synonymous with dystopian, although I believe they are different, but that doesn’t mean everyone thinks so.

I conducted a very unscientific examination of both top 100 lists on Amazon and found that each list contained 49 out of 100 of the same books. This could of course be because authors or publishers are allowed to place their books in two categories and the genres are closely related.

The real question is if there is any substantial difference between the two categories?

Part of the issue is in fiction categories themselves. Traditionally the Big Publishers crafted particular categories to cater to readers. Authors had to write within those categories if they wanted to get published. With the advent of digital publishing this has all changed. Wrote a book about time traveling zombie architects? Put it in historical fiction and romance if you want. No one will stop you. The categories now are still about getting readers to notice your book, but there is a significant amount of leeway and fuzziness. The categories are very flexible and ever-changing.

This brings us to the difference between post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction.

If there is no hard and fast acceptable definition based on established and agreed upon rules, can anyone say what does and does not belong in each category? More importantly, does it matter?

I would say ‘yes’. It matters to authors and publishers and it certainly matters to the readers who are their customers. It is about providing a valuable product at a fair price. If the product is misrepresented, then you could have an unhappy customer.

Correct categories allow readers to have a reasonably good idea of the type of book they are getting. It’s really not so much about what is right and wrong as about what is most useful to the potential reader. A clear distinction would certainly be helpful in that regard.

(Part II – What Is the Difference?)


Ryan King launched his indie author career in 2012 while keeping his day job with the US Army. Watch for his upcoming guest spot here featuring monthly reviews of post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian fiction. For more information about Ryan and his writing visit the link here.


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Posted by on May 15, 2014 in Genre Topics


U is for Unwritten – WIP



Click photo to see more Dragon Wallpapers

Click photo to see more Dragon Wallpapers

A to Z Blog Challenge

Unwritten stories, uncharted ideas, unending possibilities. Ideas are not a problem for me at this point in my writing career. Finding time to finish stories is another matter. Because it’s been awhile since I updated my progress (and it totally fits the U theme of the day) I thought this would be a good time to look at the story ideas I’ve recorded and the progress (if any) as well as genre. Bear with the working titles; those are just a way for me to remember which file is which.

Into the “Projects” folder we goooooooooooooo…..

  • Underworld (Fantasy Horror) Word Count = WC 835 of novella
  • Celestial Seas (Inspirational Romance) WC 4,761
  • Habitat (Post-Apocalyptic, Medieval Werewolf Fantasy) (Yes, I’m serious.) WC 7,000
  • Dragon’s Maid (Fantasy, MG or YA) WC 8,263
  • Melia Nahlia’s Tribe WC 1,752
  • Faery Lands (Excerpt) 418
  • Covenant House Sitay (Dystopian) WC 19,325
  • The Mage (Fantasy) WC 6,688
  • Celtic Soul (Highland Romantic Suspense or is it Suspenseful Romance?) WC 5,470
  • Bendiin World – Fighter of the First Order (Sci-fy) WC 7,812
  • Zombie Romance WC 16,174
  • The Teacher and the Wolf (Paranormal) WC 17,804
  • Other ideas saved as: compelled, weird dream, shadow feeds, the rejects, Mischief and the Mommy Monster, Bear Dancing, The Ridged, Pod K8, Hollywood Suite (Contemporary Suspense)
  • Non-Fiction: I Dreamt of Alaska, Messiness Is a Gift and Other Unexpected Blessings from God, Wooing the Warrior

AND FINALLY the next book in my Begotten Bloods series (BB3) stands at WC 59,540 which sounds like a lot except I’m beginning to think I’ll have to make two books out of the story I have going. But I should talk about that tomorrow since it will be V is for Vampires day.

So you can see my genres are all over the place which I think is okay for an early career author. This is my time to experiment with no demands (well, except for the youth in the young writers group who regularly ask if my Dragon book is finished yet and the readers patiently waiting for the next Begotten Bloods novel).

I guess it’s possible I’ll run out of ideas some day, however there is already enough on my plate to last for several years. For now the day dreams of full-time writing will have to wait. Thankfully, day-to-day progress is still possible.


Kristin King is an author and publisher. Her top sellers are “Unsinkable Vampire” and “Cain’s Coven,” and her latest novel in the Begotten Bloods Series is Death Taint. Her imprint Three Kings Publishing can be found here. Three Kings is a Mom & Pop publisher of Christian writers (not necessarily Christian books).

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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Genre Topics, On Writing


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S is for Sex – Ratings for Books Please

How explicit are these titles?

How explicit are these titles?

I know sex sells, but I sure wish books came with ratings comparable to movies. Unfortunately, if movies actually showed what books often describe, there would be a lot more X-Rated and NC-17 flicks. On my Goodreads and Amazon reviews, I’ve started adding a “HEAT Advisory” if the book pushes the borders past an “R” rating, since TV-14 often tends to go too far IMO.

Basically, if the hero on the cover is shirtless, you can expect some level of heat. How much? You could check out the “Sensuality Ratings Guide” on All About Romance Novels linked here if you are sure the title is traditionally published. I searched for a couple indie titles I recently read and couldn’t find them there. RomCom has a nice “Heat Scale” here with additional info about graphic violence and alternate lifestyles included–and once again I could not find independent authors. I especially enjoyed “a romance rookie’s guide to heat levels” because it had nice graphics (how many red peppers on a scale of 1-5 does that book get?) and an example of a romance plot rewritten to give a gist of each of the 5 levels. There was no search function. According to RT Book Reviews (Romance Times), most romance novels fall into the “Hot” level. (Wonder how this statistic would look if sales were figured?)

I prefer clean reads, though there are lots of folks who are looking for the heat. One such blogger (who really wrote a good article about this topic here) lamented the confusion of erotica with pornography. If the graphic scene was depicted for the purpose of showing a growing relationship, it was erotica. Pornography (the link was to wikipedia for this) produced the scene for sexual arousal. Really? Personally, I don’t think intention and effect can be separated so clearly.

Twilight was a mega hit, and I always suspected part of the reason was because the romance contained tension without being explicit. Young Adult (YA) books and series are incredibly popular with all ages–could this part of the reason?

Regardless, if you’re looking for a CLEAN READ (caps indicate how I’ll now highlight that in my book reviews), you could also visit one of the numerous blogs devoted to the subject such as “Library of Clean Reads” “Good Clean Reads” and “Clean Teen Reads.” No time for that? Your best bet is the “Shirtless on the Cover” test.

As I look at images of romance covers I wonder if books with the shirt half on are a little less explicit. Hmm…maybe we can get the industry to go for a “Heat Level by Shirt” standard.


Kristin King is an author and publisher. Her top sellers are “Unsinkable Vampire” and “Cain’s Coven,” and her latest novel in the Begotten Bloods Series is Death Taint. Her imprint Three Kings Publishing can be found here. Three Kings is a Mom & Pop publisher of Christian writers (not necessarily Christian books).



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R is for Romance – In Every Genre

Kindle version here.

Kindle version here.

Inspired by the A to Z Blog Challenge.

Check out my Goodreads “Read” list and you’ll find a lot of romance. Maybe it’s my favorite genre or at least quick read genre. I do like every book to have a bit in it. While enjoying a sci-fy like Ender’s Game, dystopian like Divergent, or post-apocalyptic like Glimmer of Hope, I can’t help imagining where a romance might be or where the hints of one is going. (Did anyone else think Petra liked Ender? And by “like” I mean like-liked.) 😉

Sometimes I even get to influence the making of romance. While I write Romantic Suspense, my husband’s stories are more graphic Adventure. Glimmer of Hope is the first novel in his Land of Tomorrow series and the main character is married. Nathan loves Bethany…that’s great, BUT they also have two teenage sons. (Spoiler Alert) As the family treks across post-nuclear North American, the sons help rescue a group of female slaves.

Read Divergent here to see what the movie missed.

Read Divergent here to see what the movie missed.

In my mind that is the perfect opportunity for budding romance. Unfortunately, Glimmer of Hope was already huge (2  books in 1 essentially), so the romance had to wait till Book Two, Children of Wrath, and even then it takes a sideline. At least it is there, though.

Then in No Kinda Life, hubby’s Texas Ranger rides into town and finds a beautiful woman under the thumb of the suspect Mayor (kinda Book of Eli-esque), and I see the opportunity for romance. Again, it’s a sideline and doesn’t turn out the way one expects, but somehow I am very proud for encouraging this extra element in the story. The battles he creates are terrific, there is just this one thing that was missing and now isn’t as often.

Visit the post-apocalyptic Republic of Texas.

Visit the post-apocalyptic Republic of Texas.

What I learned when I joined Romance Writers of America is that the genre is defined by the lovers getting together in the end (see RWA genre elements here). But is that the end of the first book or the end of the series? RWA seems to say the end of the book. I can’t quite get on board with that, although I see the importance of drawing the line.

Still I tend to want to see the barest hint of romance in whatever I read, and indeed do see it when it might not even exist. The possibility of romance improves every genre, in my opinion. It is an element that even hard-core action writers should consider including. Why is it important in the larger scheme of life and literature? Check out Wild At Heart to find out.


Kristin and Ryan King are married authors who hope to someday meld their writing strengths in a zombie romance with great battles.

Click photo to connect with me on Goodreads.

Click photo to connect with me on Goodreads.


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Q is for Quest – The Heart of Fantasy

Click photo for link to trilogy.

Click photo for link to trilogy.

A talisman sword, the one ring, a mystical orb, and a dark tower. To me the core of great fantasy is the Quest. I think of classic fantasy series like The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and David Eddings’ Belgariad, or more recently The Gunslinger.

It is the quest that reveals the capacity of the protagonist to rise above his/her ordinary life to be a hero. It will reveal weaknesses, give a clear vision of truth and what is important in life. Often hand-in-hand with a prophecy, we will learn with the protagonist why they are uniquely suited to the mission.

Once a month at writers group I get to read a section of an epic fantasy that genre fans should watch for. In a world created by artist Suzanne Sheldens, a trio of boys on the verge of manhood go about their life working in the fields and clambering about the trees. Strange goings-ons are coming to their valley, they are learning the legends of ancient heroes at the feet the wise woman, and…and….

Kindle edition linked here.

Kindle edition linked here.

One bit a month is just an excruciating way to make it through a quest! Especially knowing there are over 30 1-inch binders of this epic on Suzanne’s shelf, slowing being edited, reviewed, tweaked. It’s already great, I can only imagine what it will be when finished.

In my Christian worldview, these quests resonate because we were all created with a purpose (see A Purpose Driven Life) , a race to run, a path that is ours and ours alone. There is a mission, a battle against evil, and great forces at work that none of can quite understand.

Fantasy is fabulous, and yet, is there not a quest in most great stories? A quest for love, or justice, or victory, or belonging, or freedom, or a throne made of swords?

Alway liked the shock of white hair and the shadow of the wolf.

Alway liked the shock of white hair and the shadow of the wolf.

What great quests stand out in your memory?


Kristin King is a co-founder of the non-profit, Future Hope Africa. Links for books in this blog allow you to shop through the Amazon Affiliate which benefits the charity whether you buy books, clothes, or dog treats.

See new cover elsewhere.

See new cover elsewhere.


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