What Is Women’s Fiction? And Why Do You Write That?

I have been struggling with my current manuscript, finding the last third of the book to be the most difficult. Pulling it all together, grappling with endings. It’s kind of a slow and steady process, but the pain will be over sometime in June. Yes, June. I have a mental deadline. But today is blog day.

Feb 7 [17945]Let me welcome my Guest Blogger, Zan Marie Steadham. I enjoyed finally meeting her in person the other day when we met for lunch in Atlanta with two other Women’s Fiction writers, Melanie Logan and Emily Carpenter. It was fun getting to know these women re-emphasizing that we all go through the same journey through our creativity.

Zan Marie is a writer of Women’s Fiction whose blogging alter ego is “The Book Pusher.” She has mini book reviews on her blog at least twice a month because the second best thing to reading a good book is to share it with others. She particularly enjoys pushing books by her WFWA (Women’s Fiction Writers Association) buddies and the members of the Books and Writers Community. She lives west of Atlanta and nearly in Alabama with her college sweetheart husband of over thirty-eight years and their two toy poodles. She’s a 2009 Georgia Author of the Year Nominee and an active blogger. Check out her weekly posts at In the Shade of the Cherry Tree. Her humorous essay, “An Occupational Hazard” was published in the WFWA Quarterly Write On! Currently, she’s pitching her first novel.

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All of us know the perennial question: “What do you do?” Our answer—“I’m a writer”—is followed by “Oooh! When is your book coming out?”

I promise that to truly answer what’s behind getting a book to market will create a vacuum in their attention span. Our voices become just like the adults on the “Charlie Brown” specials—“wah, wah, wah” For my quick analogy, check this blogpost, Now You Can Read My Book.

I like to tell people that women’s fiction found me. When I woke from a dream in March 2008 with the first scene of my WIP, I had no clue what genre it was. The story of a recently widowed, retired teacher who still mourned her husband and their five miscarriages, who meets an abused foster twelve-year-old and has her life changed one hundred eighty degrees, wasn’t a mystery (Though, there is a bit of mystery on exactly what the girl has experienced and why she resembles the teacher’s deceased husband). It isn’t suspense, thriller, or horror. (Though, to be honest, some people think the abuse fits that classification.) And as a contemporary story it doesn’t fit SF or fantasy. I was left with literary and mainstream.

I scratched my head when I tried to research agents. Mainstream covered way too many types of books. I didn’t want to spin my wheels when agent after agent passed.bl wh woman reading

Then, I met Amy Sue Nathan (check out her books! They’re fabulous) and her blog was promoting women’s fiction and mentioned the formation of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. The WFWA “an inclusive organization of writers creating layered stories that are driven by the main character’s emotional journey.”

I had an Ah Hah moment. I was writing women’s fiction. My current project is Upmarket Women’s Fiction and is a perfect book for book clubs. The WFWA has helped me hone my craft, find agents to query, and bolster me when I falter.

Now, I can proudly say, “I write Women’s Fiction. Let me tell you about my book.”

Ninety-nine percent of my questioners get wistful to read my story. They wish me well, add a few prayers, and say, “Let me know when it comes out.”

I can’t ask for a better conversation than that. 🙂

You can find Zan Marie on:

FACEBOOK:  https://www.facebook.com/WriterZanMarieSteadham/

TWITTER:     https://twitter.com/ZanMarieS

WEBSITE/BLOG:  www.zanmariesteadham.com

Thank you, Zan Marie.

See you in June,

Jody

 

Digging Deep

“A really strong woman accepts the war she went through and is enabled by her scars.”
—-Carly Simon

FoxgloveHappy May! Check out my Foxglove!! Just purchased it at Home Depot and planted it under a kitchen window so I could see it rain or shine. Didn’t even know it was a perennial! I suppose you’ve guested that I do not have a natural green thumb. I’m working on it.

I love to talk about strong women. I admire them, praise them, wish to be just like a whole bunch of them. Some, of course, are famous, but I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting any of them, but I do enjoy quoting them.

“Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.” – Anne Lamott

“. . . knowing what must be done does away with fear.” – Rosa Parks

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” – Nora Ephron

However, I do know hundreds of woman I consider to be in that special category. Some bucket and shovelhappen to be born Southern; others I’ve labeled “might as well be.” What does it take to classify someone as a STRONG WOMAN? I believe she somehow draws her on her own inner strength to overcome a life changing obstacle, make the best of a difficult situation, accept a challenge, or simply make a risky change or life decision. All in all, she pulls from within herself to create a better life for her and the people around her. We all know these women. What makes these women who they are? Where does their strength come from or better yet how are they able to draw from it?

I asked a few of these women I know to answer the following questions: What has given you inner strength in the past and what gives it to you today when you need it? Here are some of the responses I received.

  •  “Helping others. Being chivalrous.”
  • “. . . my faith in God—in the past and now. What keeps me going are my kids (I love being a Mom.) and the longing to live a life of purpose.”
  • “. . . has grown stronger and stronger over the years as my faith journey has progressed. Several folks have touched my life deeply in the past . . . as well as I have weathered quite a few tragedies. Walking through life’s valleys and knowing I will come out on the other side because of my deep faith in Christ gives me my strength.”
  • “In the past, I have found inner strength from my faith in a loving God, in the belief that the most difficult and painful experiences can bring about the greatest and often most needed personal growth, and the understanding that you must ‘Go through to Get through.’ . . . In addition . . . currently . . . my connection with strong, knowledgeable, and genuine women brings me great joy, which adds to my inner strength. That said, I do not have it all figured out!”
  • “That’s easy. God is with me every step of the way.”
  • “Two things come to mind. My strength has always been my faith. But . . . also . . . my mother gave me strength. She always believed in me and made me believe I could do anything.”
  • “I gather strength from life’s challenges. I keep my faith close, but pull from a fight in me that says never give up.”
  • “. . . in the past . . . through support of friends and family coupled with determination and my desire for independence. Presently and continuously . . . through self-reflection, self-confidence and blind optimism.”

Sara, the main character in “Weather Permitting,” doesn’t know she’s a strong woman until her marriage breaks up, and she has no choice but to find her strength. Women I read about and women I know personally amaze me with their journeys of reinvention and the ability to do more than survive. They thrive, and the older they get, the better they get.

So I’m asking you, you beautifully strong women who read my blog, what has given you strength in the past and what gives it to you today?

Stay tuned. On the twenty-fifth of this month, my guest blogger will be Zan Marie Steadham.  See you then,

Jody

The Joy of New Perspectives

Ahh . . . April. Don’t want to see it go. Cool nights, warm days. Hard to stay indoors and write, but I have no choice. My passion calls me to sit in front of my laptop hour upon hour. Today’s schedule includes polishing a synopsis for my new book (working title – Relative Consequences) which must be completed soon in order for me to enter the novel submission contest for the Southeastern Writers Association Conference held in June. Also working on a difficult chapter.

Karen Ginther-Graham (2)But first on my agenda is welcoming my guest blogger and author, Karen Ginther-Graham, who is a long-time Okie but hails from Southern California. Her writing often reflects those two places. Her livelihood includes management and renovation of apartments in a re-emerging part of Oklahoma City. She studied literature at the University of Central Oklahoma. She and her husband live in Edmond, Oklahoma.

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As a soon-to-be published author, I am excited to be a part of Jody’s call for submissions. I am drawn to women’s fiction, and imagine most of you are as well. Women’s fiction has plenty of exciting scenes, but those scenes are for the most part devoid of car chases, vampires, and gun fights. They are gentler in tone, and often focus on a woman’s journey through a life-affirming experience. I love experiencing a character’s response to a particular event, and imagine my own reaction in the same situation. Sometimes I gain new perspectives from these fictional characters that come alive solely from an author’s imagination.

Writing came late in life for me. I breezed through my college lit writing assignments, and the first inkling took seed that I might someday try my hand at penning a novel. A defining moment came when someone at my twenty-fifth high school reunion recited verbatim a haiku poem I’d written for the school paper all those years ago.

I approached middle age and longed for more romances between mature adults. Of the hundreds of fantastic novels I read, few were exactly what I sought. In response, I embarked on a journey to write just such a novel.

perf5.000x8.000.inddHere is an overview of my debut romantic women’s fiction novel titled Finding Rose Rocks

When Jennifer Ellis’s business fails, she decides to leave Oklahoma in a cloud of red dust and to return to her San Diego roots. Then Troy Stanhope comes along with a solution to her company’s woes, and she falls for his velvety voice and appealing confidence. Their relationship deepens but she is called to the west coast on a family matter and decides to stay for the summer. She meets a new man and finds herself drawn to his irresistible charm. Her newfound self-enlightenment mingles with salty ocean breezes and eucalyptus-scented air to place her in his arms. Their liaison is heartfelt but brief, midlife’s last hurrah. Jennifer realizes her heart is back on the southern prairie and returns to Troy’s ranch, but she may be one adventure too late.

Happy Reading!

Please follow Karen on:

FACEBOOK:   www.facebook.com/ginthergraham
Her Blog:        http://www.karenginthergraham.blogspot.com

See you in May,

Jody

An April Salute

balloons-1300Don’t you just love the month of April? The greening of everything? The pinks and lavenders in neighborhood yards? A blossoming tree capturing your attention as you turn a corner? My yard is coming to life as I speak. Every morning my dog, Bella, and I check to see what’s new. April is my favorite month. Well, it’s also my birthday month. Yay!

th91JY168GI look at April as a beginning. The beginning of an awakening world, of warmth, of the birth of life around us, but also a beginning of new strengths I notice in myself. I seem to regroup in April, write more, clean more, read more. I do more of everything. I find strength, both internal and external, that must have been asleep during the winter months.

So we’re back to my favorite topic—strong women. I truly believe that woman have an innate strength which gets them through hard times, which comes just when they need it most, which sometimes slips away but always manages to return. This strength leads women to become, to name a few, mothers, teachers, heads of state, corporate professionals, missionaries, doctors, nurses, elder and child caregivers, business owners and of course, good friends to other women, and allows them to create beautiful art, write heartfelt stories, cook amazing food, and give back to the world in some way.

As an author, I’m always impressed with writers who exemplify the inner strength of the characters they present on the page. Doing research for this blog post, I came across an article written for the New York Times on December 18, 2014 entitled, “The Unbreakable Lauren Hillenbrand” by Wil S. Hilton. The article was magic and the subject even more so.

th (7)Lauren Hillenbrand wrote Seabiscuit and Unbroken—true stories brought to life, in this case with historical reference. I have read both of these amazing books and Ms. Hillenbrand’s way with words is both lyrical, emotional and intellectual. If you haven’t read these books, please do. You will come away with not only knowledge but also insight touched with spirit and humanity.

Hilton’s article explained Lauren’s background, her family, her creative process, and her illness. I knew she suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome to the max. What I learned was that there when she is unable to leave her home due to her ongoing symptoms, which include vertigo. Several years ago, I endured bouts of vertigo and it can be debilitating. She doesn’t just function with her condition; she writes books that require detailed background research, a time consuming endeavor and sometimes an organizational nightmare. If you have a chance, check out Mr. Hilton’s article online at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/21/magazine/the-unbreakable-laura-hillenbrand.html?_r=0

So here’s my salute to Lauren Hillenbrand who not only writes with her affliction, but who excels in her craft. I would love to meet her for she is my definition of a strong southern woman. (Forgive me if you think she’s not really southern. I threw in that part because she was born in Maryland, one of those borderline states.)

My next post will be introduce guest blogger, Karen Ginther-Graham.

See you toward the end of the month,

Jody

Woman Strong by Kimberly Black

Spring has sprung in my neighborhood. How about yours? Georgia pollen is everywhere though, so if I sneeze on this blog, I apologize. Let me grab a tissue.

Kim thumbnail smallToday, please welcome my guest blogger, Kimberly Black. Born and raised in the Texas Panhandle, Kim carries a deep love for the Lone Star state. After her family, her passion lies in writing, teaching Bible school, movies, and design. By day, she is a professional building designer, specializing in custom homes. She has three books in publication–LYDIA, WOMAN OF PURPLE (Buoy Up Press, 2014), and POCKETS and A FICTION WRITER’S CHARACTER WORKBOOK, both self-published–with two manuscripts in editing and two in development. Periodically, she generously releases her novel, SHOOTING STARS TRAVELING CIRCUS, to newsletter recipients on her website. She currently serves as President of the Texas High Plains Writers, an organization established in 1920 to support and encourage writers of all kinds throughout the Texas Panhandle and surrounding area. Kim is available for speaking engagements for groups, classes, organizations, and book clubs. Please contact her at kim@kimblack.net for more information.

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Writing strong female characters is one of my favorite things to do. I come from a long line of tough gals in my family. My maternal grandmother was a descendant of Davy Crockett, and my paternal grandmother is a descendant of William the Conqueror. Both took their mantles quite seriously, as do I. Big shoes to fill.

I’m a multi-genre writer, published with a children’s book and a Christian historical novel. I have three more works-in-progress, including a spy trilogy with a female lead, a sci-fi western inspired by Annie Oakley, and another Christian historical. The umbrella over all my work is “women’s fiction.”

In my children’s book, Pockets, my main character explores her world and learns that the best things in life aren’t the things she carries, but the acts of love and kindness she can spread along her way.

With Lydia, Woman of Purple, I saw the ancient Greek marketplace much like today’s world Lydia Coverwhere women must be resilient to hold their place. Lydia struggles with other business owners, local officials, and her own family members as she discovers her faith and employs it to make her world better.

For my subscribers, I’m releasing a free chapter each month of Shooting Stars Traveling Circus, a sci-fi western about a young woman and her brother who must leave earth to save the lives of their now-outlawed horses. They find that space is the perfect stage for a Wild West show in rebellion of Authority’s widespread oppression.

My women have strength, faith, and a desire to be their best as they meet their flaws and obstacles head-on. I find inspiration in every woman’s story when I listen with my heart.

Please follow Kim:

My website:          http://kimblackink.com/
Facebook page:    https://www.facebook.com/Kimberly-Black-Author-218033044906913/
Twitter:                   https://twitter.com/KimBlackInk
Pinterest:               https://www.pinterest.com/kimblackink/
Instagram:             https://www.instagram.com/kimblackink/

Thanks for visiting.  See you all in April (my favorite month of the year!)

Jody

The Real Joy in Achieving a Dream

February is almost over – it’s too SHORT.  My goals were too lofty for this little month. I do hope your checklist looks better than mine. But as I promised myself, I will be blogging twice a month and including guest bloggers once a month into the summer.Camille

Today, I am happy and grateful to introduce a guest blogger, Camille Di Maio, author of her soon to be released novel, THE MEMORY OF US.  Camille lives in San Antonio with her husband and four children. She’s traveled to four continents and most of the US and is always planning her next trip. By day, she is an award-winning real estate agent, and by night, she is an author. She does pretty well with little sleep. She loves belting out Broadway tunes at a moment’s notice, shopping at farmers markets, and she will try anything that doesn’t involve heights or roller skates.

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There are things you dream about as a little girl, and you can imagine them happening in vivid detail. Your wedding, for example. Your dress will be tea-length. The bridesmaids will wear lavender and have puffy sleeves. You will honeymoon in Tahiti.

Then you grow up, and reality hits. Everything costs more than you thought. The styles of your childhood have gone out of fashion. It is hard work to put together such an event.

But, it is still beautiful. Even if it looks different than what you imagined.

There are other dreams, such as what you want to be when you grow up. I always wanted to be a writer. I got there, recently, after detours through politics and real estate. But, after six years of hard work (and a shout out from Sir Paul McCartney from the Beatles, but that’s another story), I have signed with a literary agent, who got me a book deal that I’m very excited about. THE MEMORY OF US, a WWII story about a Protestant girl and a Catholic seminarian will be released on May 31.

Camille's photo Every step has been its own journey. The challenges: fifteen drafts, countless rejections, the effort it cost to make it better and better. The joys: having two agents want it, signing with a publisher, seeing the cover art, seeing my name on the cover art, becoming friends with other writers.

Those last things look exactly as I imagined them as a little girl. I thought long ago that I would be excited when those things happened. That they would be everything I ever wanted.

But, after becoming a mother, after caring for a life outside of your own, you learn one thing. Nothing you do is for yourself anymore. So, as delightful as those benefits are, the real joy in realizing this dream has been what it’s meant for my three daughters and one son. Mom has showed them that achieving their dreams and becoming anything they want to be aren’t just pretty platitudes to put on a motivational poster. They can become a reality with hard work, resilience, perseverance, and a positive attitude. And along the way, other people have told me that my writing journey has inspired them to dig up their old dreams and make them happen, too.

And that, I think is the secret to happiness. Realizing that it’s not about what you’ve received. It’s about what you’ve contributed.

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Please follow Camille:
Amazon Author Page – amazon.com/author/camilledimaio
Book Trailer Link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhGrvDii0g
Website – https://camilledimaio.com
Twitter – https://twitter.com/CamilleDiMaio
Instagram – https://instagram.com/camilledimaio/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/camilledimaio.author

See you next month,

Jody

The Heart of the Matter

groundhogThis February is full of special days–Groundhog day, Super Bowl Sunday, President’s Day, Valentine’s Day (can’t you see the line of husbands at Publix holding bouquets and a heart-shaped box of not-so-great candy), and next week Mardi Gras and beginning of Lent.

So it’s a pretty cool month. (No pun intended).

Thinking specifically about love and all of that mushy stuff, hundreds of books labeled “Romance” sit front and center on display tables at Barnes & Noble ripe for the picking. I am a fan of romance novels and usually have one on my bedside table, but I don’t write in the “romance genre,” but that’s not to say I won’t someday. Oh, wait a minute, I did write a 500-word flash fiction piece that I’d consider romantic, and tooting my tiny horn, I did win an Honorable Mention at the 2014 Southeastern Writers Workshop. But generally, I write as they say “Women’s Fiction,” which by the way is an incredibly broad term. It’s like that old eye of the beholder thing—how an agent, a publisher, or the marketing gurus perceive the book.

In my first novel, Weather Permitting, the protagonist, Sara, loses the man whom she thinks is the love of her life, her husband of twenty-five years. Her goal is not to find another man to complete her but to find happiness within herself. At first, she feels displaced. She’s lost her identify, her label. Not a wife, not Mrs. Palmer, but she’s become someone she doesn’t recognize. If only life wouldn’t get in her way, she could figure it all out.

A little romance sneaks in the story every so often, but because the book is “Women’s Fiction,” the solution to Sara’s conflict is not necessarily another man (sorry, not going to tell you what happens).

So Valentine’s Day? What are you doing that night? Staying warm, cuddling by the fire, out to dinner at Ruth Chris? All of those sound good to me. “Hey, Mike. . . .”

th (6)During my lifetime, I’ve both hated and loved February 14, for obvious reasons. But, don’t most people like it? After all, it’s a lovely holiday created to show the person you love that you care. However, shouldn’t we do that all of the time? I mean, life is too short to pass up a chance to say, “I love you” followed by “please change the channel or scratch my back.”

Enjoy your week!

Jody

Deadlines

deadlineI am now in the midst of my third round of queries. Looking for the one agent who wants to represent little ole me and my manuscript. It’s hard to put yourself out there in queryland with your work, your heart, and soul on paper, and have it rejected. However, according to a heck of lot of good writers, it’s no big deal. “All it takes is just one agent.” I will be patient and wait for him or her to break the cycle. (And a little prayer now and then couldn’t hurt.)

In the meantime, I’m writing and writing and writing. Working on Book 2, emailing a new query letter out to another agent every time a rejection dribbles in, and working on a short story. I’m planning to enter the Southeastern Writers Association Workshop submissions again this year and at least two other contests. All this puts me under the gun—my very own handmade, crafted from self-doubt and old insecurities, but very pretty gun. I create deadlines.

So DEADLINES or Dead Lines. We’ve all stood in the “dead” line waiting at the DMV or something to that effect. And we’ve all seen “dead” lines of dialogue. Dialogue that just lies there, doesn’t breathe, never goes anywhere. Some authors write brilliant dialogue that’s so alive it jumps off the page. I certainly aim for that target.

Now back to other deadlines, zero hours, countdowns, moments of truth, or timewoman-businesswoman-under-stress-missing-her-deadlines-46982593 frames. What are they good for? Increasing stress levels? Time management? Binge eating? (I digress).

It’s funny how I always work well with deadlines. For some reason, it’s good for me to have a time limit. I need that invisible person holding the stopwatch or the checkered flag at the end of the race. Do deadlines stress you out?

According to the dictionary, the definitions for the word DEADLINE are as follows:

  1. The latest time by which something should be completed.
  2. A line drawn around a prison. If prison guards catch prisoners crossing the line, the prisoners will be shot.
  3. A deadline is a line not to be crossed.

Being able to set my own deadlines right now is one of the nice things about being a writer. The lines not to be crossed are squiggly and sometimes as flexible as a rubber band. On the other hand, if I am lucky enough to find an agent, and subsequently a publisher, I’m sure I will no longer have that luxury. Hey, I think I’d like that kind of deadline even more.

Enjoy!

Jody

 

Being Resolute

red-shoes-200x300A new year means hope that I can “be resolute,” which means to be determined, to be purposeful, and to be adamant. That I can do. It’s the beginning-of-the-year do-or-die resolution that bothers me. That I can’t do.

The resolute part is easy; the other is hard. You know, like giving up chocolate, wine, or binge watching British detective shows.

Being a strong southern woman (and proud of it), I can resolve to be anything I want, anytime, any day of the year and it’s up to me to pick and choose. The older I get, the more determined, purposeful and adamant I become about what’s important to me and sometimes to the detriment of the people around me. I can get a little mouthy. My bad.

I don’t think I can help it. My mama brought up to speak my mind and be a lady at the same time. I have to admit that sometimes the latter doesn’t always shine through. Maybe I can be “resolute” and work on it.

Sara Palmer, the protagonist in Weather Permitting was married to the love of her life for twenty-five years when her life unravels. After her divorce, she begins a quest for change but life gets in her way. However, her determination to figure out where she fits into her new life keeps her moving forward and leads her to discover inner strength she never knew she had. She chooses to reinvent herself. She becomes resolute.

positive life quotesI wrote that first novel with empathy for women in midlife who find themselves facing a future of uncertainty after a divorce from a husband they’ve lived with for a long time. Their identity is questionable. Daily they are challenged to find out who they are when they are no longer attached to a spouse. Women are strong and when they figure it out, and they do, well, as Mama used to say, “Katy, bar the door.”

Happy New Year!!

Jody

Ah…Paradise

IMG_0853 (2)I know, I know, it’s December and I should be talking about Christmas, snow, presents, tinsel, ribbon, etc., etc. Maybe later.

On the day after Thanksgiving, I was fortunate enough to take a four-day trip down to south Florida with my husband. It was beautiful. No other word can come close. Weather was perfect. Not crowded. Perfect. We stayed on Sanibel Island.

I spent the last day of our vacation in Bonita Springs. As a child, I lived there for a few years when my father owned a small restaurant. The historic part of the town is still in tact and I was lucky enough to find a few people who had never left. One who actually remembered playing with a little girl named Jody who had short straight black hair and bangs. The town as it was in the 1950’s will become an integral part of my second book.

As I sat on the airplane heading back to Atlanta, I IMG_0873 (2)contemplated every detail of our time on the beach, enjoying seafood, visiting a dear sick friend, and taking a trip back in time. Though we all see TIME as our enemy, always trying to beat it or kill it, maybe we are selling it short. Each second, minute, hour in our lives should be cherished, revered, honored. We’ve been given so little time, let’s remember the past, enjoy our present, and not worry about the future.

IMG_0842 (2)A tiny bit of my past was conjured up in Bonita Springs, Florida. I remember more now than I did before, but I wish I remembered every precious moment.

Oh, and the little guy in the cage says, “Merry Christmas!!”

Jody

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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