Monday, February 27, 2012

What Is Women's Fiction? (Part 1)

If a romance should convince the reader they are falling in love…
If a thriller should convince the reader they are in mortal danger…
If a fantasy should convince the reader they are in a world of wonder and magic…
What should women’s fiction do?

~~It’s a valid question; one I’ve asked often as I write FRIENDLY FIRE and its sequel, LINE OF FIRE.

~~Here’s some definition of the genre:

Katie Shea, agent with Don Maass, at Writer Unboxed
My definition of women’s fiction: An extraordinary story relating to women involving in-depth characters, emotion, struggle, and uncovering life’s unexplainable joy.

Nora Roberts quoted at Ampichellis Ebooks
Women's fiction is a story that centers on a woman or on primarily women's issues, not necessarily the romantic relationship-based books I do, but the woman's story.

Micki Nuding, HarperCollins/Avon senior editor quoted by Lisa Craig
Women's Fiction can be commercial (and usually is) or literary; it can be here-and-now contemporary or a multigenerational saga, like Rosamund Pilcher's books. The woman is the star of the story and her changes and emotional development are the subject.

Also quoted by Lisa Craig:
Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Women's Fiction is about women's empowerment.

Jane Heller defines women's fiction as novels written with any relationship at the core of the plot.

Linda Hyatt of Hyatt Agency: Good women's commercial fiction usually touches the reader in ways other fiction cannot. Relationship stories, generational sagas, love stories and women's commercial fiction must touch on subjects women can relate to in their real lives. Whether there is a happily ever after ending, or a bittersweet one, whether the reader laughs or cries, women love reading stories that touch their emotions-and tug at their hearts.

Find Me An Author adds this about women’s fiction: Women's fiction taps into the hopes, fears, dreams and even secret fantasies of women today.

~~So, what’s your definition of women’s fiction?

~~My next post will list some authors whose work is considered women’s fiction.
Part three of my three part Women’s Fiction discussion will let you into why I think my current WIP are part of this growing genre.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ouch!

"If the artist does not fling himself, without reflecting, into his work, as Curtis flung himself into the yawning gulf, as the soldier flings himself into the enemy's trenches, and if, once in this crater, he does not work like a miner on whom the walls of his gallery have fallen in; if he contemplates difficulties instead of overcoming them one by one...he is simply looking on at the suicide of his own talent." - Honore de Balzac

~~I saw myself in the mirror of this quote a writer buddy shared today. I realize I constantly see only the negatives in my writing. Guess what? That's a great way to reduce your productivity. Then you can get negative about that. ; )

~~So here's to finding ways to look for the positives. What do you do that is good? Did you jot down the good ideas you had today?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Opening Scene Remodel

~~Last week, I talked about the difference in repainting and remodeling when we're revising. I thought you'd like to see what I mean by remodeling. Here's the opening as of March 18, 2011. And now, the latest version. I still try to open a window into my MC, Laura Grace, without her sounding whiny. The other big change is that the child who will so change her life, Samantha, is now front and center.

~~Tell me what you think. Did my remodel help or hurt? Don't pull any punches--remember I asked for it. ; )
#

I wasn’t a mother, but I knew the look of a child whose parents were MIA. The girl at the end of the table had all the signs.

Her face was closed, contained as she watched the crowd of foster children at the party. What was her story? I might not want to know. In my thirty years of teaching teens, I’d seen the result of every possible abuse, neglect, and abandonment up close and personal.

Another cloud of sweet baby power drifted over me as one of the teens led a toddler toward the serving tables. So many little foster children made my heart ache. Most of this bunch was elementary age or younger. All of them placed with foster parents and not with their mothers on this Mother’s Day weekend. The noise of little children at play ricocheted of the block walls of the fellowship hall.

I didn’t have the stamina to do more than bake cookies any longer, but that I could do. My Tom, God rest his soul, would have been sitting cross-legged on the floor playing games with the kiddies. After all, we’d borrowed other people’s children for over thirty years in our classrooms. Church was just another chance to practice a bit of the love we had for children. Only he wasn’t here to share it with me.

“Isn’t it great, Laura Grace?” A grin crinkled my friend Jen’s eyes as she looked around the room and turned to me. “I didn’t expect so many foster kids, but we have enough goodies for an army. And it wouldn’t be a party without your tea cakes.”

I rearranged my cookies so they were closer to the edge of the tray. Now the little ones could reach them better. Turning toward Jen, I smiled. “Glad they’re a hit.”
She laughed. “Your teacakes will be gone before we’re halfway through the party.”
Rosemary joined us at the serving tables. She didn’t have to say a thing. All she had to do was look at me with that concerned gaze—the one she assessed me with every day since Tom’s death.


I raised my voice over the chatter. “Well, of course kids love cookies, but all of the rest of you have so much more experience with this age group.”

Rosemary snorted. “Of course Laura Grace should know by now what we want her to bake. She’s been baking for church parties for over thirty years.”

I scanned the crowd just in time to side step two little boys who nearly ran into me to grab for a cookie. The older girl caught my eye again. “I’m going to check on the girl alone at the end of the table.”

“Good. She’s twelve and you’ll know what to say.” Twin lines of concern between her brows marred Jen’s smiling face as she looked at the girl.

I grabbed one of my teacakes and a brownie. Maybe some chips? Collecting a cup of punch from the beverage table as I went by, I approached the girl who had riveted my attention.

Her curls were exactly the color of Tom’s when we were in high school. Then I saw her deep blue eyes and my step faltered. They were just like my Tom’s. Swallowing a sudden lump, I moved toward her.

Her eyes narrowed just a bit as I placed the plate of goodies on the table beside her. “Hi, I’m Laura Grace. I’m glad you came to our party.”
She looked at me, but her face didn’t change. No hint of a smile or ghost of a reaction moved the still face.


In the presence of such control, I knew I wasn’t going to get any response. I smiled at her and put the punch by the plate. “I hope you enjoy these. See you around.”
One of Rosemary's perfect brows arched as I rejoined them at the serving table. "You didn't get much response."


I almost said none, but the girl' s eyes had been wells of sorrow. "I hadn't expected much." The child had a foster mom, but it was obvious she needed her real mom. Did the woman in question have the resources to pledge to be there no matter what? "Jen, what do you know about her?"

Jen's sigh sent a chill through my heart. "Her mom was beaten to death by her live-in boyfriend. Samantha saw it all."

My throat clenched on a sudden taste of bile. A foster mom was as good as it was going to get. So much pain. No wonder she was withdrawn.

"That's horrible, Jen!" Rosemary look back at the girl. "Wait a minute. How do you know that?"

Jen's lips narrowed into a tight line. "Bob was still a patrolman three years ago.

I looked across the room. Bob Thomas was giving a little boy a piggyback ride. At least four more children hopped around him like fleas waiting their turns. Maybe not the most dignified job for the chief of police, but it revealed a sincere heart.

"He told you too much." Rosemary's voice hardened.

Jen turned face to face with Rosemary and would have been nose to nose if I hadn't been between them. The heat rose as they towered over me. "He has to vent some time or the job will kill him." Her voice was as tight as Rosemary's. "It's the reason he got the men involved in helping with the kids today. He knows several of these children’s stories." She looked down at me. "Laura Grace, surely you and Tom talked about the horrors in order to survive teaching all those years."

"Yes, we did, but it went no further. I'm sure the case workers would be horrified to know what Bob's told you. Maybe we should just let it go." But as I talked, I watched Samantha. So deep a wound and wounds that deep didn't always heal.


#

Throughout the party, I kept vigil over the girl who became the symbol of the intense pain families could inflict on each other.

Her still face never cracked, never registered more than a closed fa├žade until her foster mom returned to collect her children. Then Samantha glowed with concern as she corralled the three small boys. Her pale hands twined with the two smallest – one Hispanic and the other black. The mom, who was black, balanced two tiny twin girls on either hip. The oldest boy clasped the smallest boy’s other hand after Samantha called him to attention.

There was love there and I could only hope it was enough to reach Samantha's core. If I knew how to help, I'd move the mountains to do it. But I was not a mother. That was what Samantha needed because her wound was rooted in her mother's murder. No one was going to replace that woman's love. Certainly not me.

As they left the room, I began picking up abandoned paper plates and cups. When I reached where she’d sat, I stopped. Only the tea cake was gone from her plate. The brownies and chips were untouched. Tears prickled my eyes. At least I've added a bit of sweetness to her life.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Repainting or Remodeling?

~~What's your take on revising scenes you've already written? Do you have a hard time deciding when to just repaint or when to remodel and tear down a few walls?



~~I'm afraid I err on the side of "repainting"--moving the clauses and annoying the commas--more often than not. I find I'm reluctant to really tear out the walls and re-imagine the scene altogether. Thanks to my writing buddies at Books and Writers, I'm working on a major remodeling of my climax for FRIENDLY FIRE. Check HERE for to first version and HERE for my rewrite of a bit of the initial scene.

~~What about you? Do you ever get stuck with a scene that needs a full overhaul? What helps you change your first take on the scene?