Saturday, August 13, 2011

Guest blog with B Justin Shier author of Zero Sight

Today's guest is B Justin Shier author of Zero Sight (Zero Sight Series, Book 1).  Today he is going to speak about his difficulty fitting his book into the established genres.  

My name is B. Justin Shier. I’m a medical student and the author of the Zero Sight Series.

Zero Sight is about magic, and monsters, and copious amounts of coffee. The events take place in a parallel America where magic is real but under wraps. Dieter Resnick, the book’s protagonist, is a high school student trying to get a scholarship to go to college. Things don’t go as planned. A high school brawl leads to a tragic explosion, and a strange girl named Rei Acerba Bathory changes his life forever.

Zero Sight is available on both the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook for $2.99. The sequel, Zero Sum, will be released this autumn.


I want to thank Scott for giving me the chance to guest blog today.

I originally discovered Scott’s blog while I was trying to find a new novel to read. He was hosting this monstrous thread on Amazon, so I followed it to this website. I got excited when I discovered that Scott reviewed books in the same fantasy and Sci-Fi genres I love, and I really appreciated the time he has spent since then highlighting undiscovered indie authors.

On my own blog, I spend most of my time tracking the publishing industry’s progress from the old agency “dead tree” model to the new “reader-driven” digital one, but today I’d like to talk about something different. I want to talk about age. I want to talk about the age of characters, the age of readers, and how the Powers That Be try to classify them.


When I started writing Zero Sight, I thought very little about marketing and demographics. I had the image of a young man and young woman sitting next to one another on a bus. He had mussed up hair. Hers was as dark as night. When I squinted really hard, I could see that the boy was out of sorts. When I squinted even harder, I discovered that the girl was death incarnate. That’s all I had…that and a burning desire to see how it would all turn out. So I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and thought back to my high school writing teacher’s maxim: Write Only What You Know.

I thought back to one of the most turbulent times in my life. I had traveled across the country from my home in Las Vegas to the sweltering river town of St. Louis. I didn’t know quite what to do with my life; I just knew that it had to be awesome lest I be considered an utter failure. When I considered all the fears and anxieties I had experienced, I couldn’t really think of many books that had managed to tell that story with vampires. So I set out to write something new. The experience was a struggle, but in the end, I was really happy with how Zero Sight turned out. My gracious beta readers seemed to like it too, so I submitted it to a few review sites. That’s when I got the following response ten times over:

What in the bejeezus is this?

To which I replied, “Sorry?”

To which they replied, “Is this Young Adult Fiction or Adult Fiction. Decide. Now.”

To which I was like, “Um, both?”

To which they replied, “Um, no.”

Under the old paradigm, this is as far as Zero Sight would have gotten. It didn’t fit into any of the traditional categories. The characters, aged 17-21, are considered a bit too old for the YA market and a bit too young for the Sookie Stackhouse stack. Traditional publishers would have tossed it, or worse, asked me to change the setting to a high school. But altering Dieter and Rei’s ages would have killed their book. You see, Zero Sight, at its most elemental, is a story about bright young minds making their first steps into the world. Dieter and Rei are struggling with the usual post-high school issues of insufficient financial aid, copious amounts of dirty laundry, poorly managed bloodlust, and accidental homicides. The fun is in how they cope, on their own, far from the reach of their parents.

Will Dieter and Rei become heroes—or are they destined for villainy?

This, hopefully, is the fun of the novel.

Good thing we’re living in the new digital age of publishing. I could ignore the opinions of the Powers That Be, tag the Zero Sight Series as both Young Adult and Adult Contemporary Fantasy, stick a sixteen-and-over warning on it for the copious bloodshed and cussing, and hope that readers decide the novels are worth their time.

It’s like the Renaissance, only with more typos.

Now to be clear, I’m not claiming to be a Yuri Gagarin here. Pride and Prejudice was published quite a few years ago, and plenty of modern authors are specifically targeting the 16-30 year old age group. I’m pretty sure Chuck Palahniuk is making a fine living off this demographic, and everyone knows who’s really reading JK Rowling. It’s just that the industry doesn’t want to acknowledge it as an entity unto itself. That would require another category. They point to the YA and Adult stacks and demand that you choose one or the other.

You’ve probably already witnessed the rather hilarious side effects of this rather arbitrary division. Sometimes you discover Middle-Grade Fiction masquerading as Young Adult. Other times you come across Battle Royale sitting next to Babar the Elephant. With classics being reshuffled into the new categories, and nearly all new cover art being influenced by the Twilight ascetic, discovering the right sort of book has become as challenging as locking down the location of a rave in the prairielands. You need someone like Scott to tell you which grain silo the beats are blasting from, or you’re gonna end up trancing solo with the cattle.

Since the YA classification is here to stay, and we the readers can now do whatever the heck we want, we should probably come up with a good name for novels with a GED. So far, I’ve been told to label Zero Sight as: YA, YA17+, Adult, New Adult, Tweenty, Novela Reposada, and/or Harry Potter on Crack. I think we can do better. Hopefully one of you brilliant folks can recommend something.


B. Justin Shier grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada. After cashing in his winnings, he went to study at Washington University in St. Louis. He researched cancer biology for a few years before deciding on a career in medicine. He is currently pursuing his MD somewhere in Southern California. He also writes fantasy novels.

For updates on the Zero Sight Series and Random Ramblings, you can visit B. at:

So if anyone has any suggestions for a genre that you think his book would fit in leave a comment and let us know.  Thanks!


  1. Cool post - and the book sounds really interesting, I'll be giving it a shot.

  2. JH

    I actually thought this book would be right up your alley. It seems to have a lot of the elements that you have in your books so I hope if you pick it up you really enjoy it. I know I had a great time reading it.

  3. I really enjoyed zero sight-very well done story

  4. Thanks guys n gals. And Scott, it was really fun to write for your blog! Keep up the good work. Hopefully, more and more readers discover this site and all the fun books you manage to find.


  5. All I can say is THANK GOD you did not change the setting to be in a high school.

  6. @Anon 2:13: High school is one of those places I have no urge to revisit : )