Guest Post: Author Greer Macallister Ponders The Mystery Of Historical Fiction

TML coverToday, author Greer Macallister tackles the age-old question of genre! Historical fiction, women’s fiction, romance. Does it matter? How do we fit? What does it mean? I’m not sure there are any definite answers, but Greer has it right. It’s the reader who matters, and our job is to deliver a good story. THAT’S what’s most important, no matter when, where, or how, your story exists.

Please welcome Greer Macallister to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

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Giveaway & Guest Post: Author Tina Ann Forkner

 

 

Jeanne Takenaka is the winner!DSC_0084

I don’t do many giveaways on Women’s Fiction Writers so you know this is a big deal! Today author Tina Ann Forkner is giving away two of her three novels, WAKING UP JOY (published in October by Tule Publishing) and ROSE HOUSE, published in 2009. And just for kicks — I’m giving away a copy of THE GLASS WIVES to the winner as well. You’ve read all these books, you say? Well someone told me that some gift giving holidays are right around the corner! 

I loved all Tina’s books but I have a special place in my heart for WAKING UP JOY, and today you’ll find out why. I also have a special place in my heart for Tina. We met when I was an anonymous mommy blogger in 2006 and have truly come a long way. All the way to meeting in person for the first time earlier this year!

tina

Today you’ll read about Tina’s publishing journey, and you’ll likely be inspired for your own. Just leave a comment about your publishing journey—or about anything else reading, writing, book, or cute kitten related (I just love those cute kitty videos!)—and one lucky reader will win all three books! The winner will be chosen on Friday! US addresses only. 

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Naming Your Fictional Characters by Lynn Kanter

HOV Cover - SmallLast week we pondered picturing our characters, and today we’re noodling about naming with author Lynn Kanter. How do you name your characters? Mine tend to arrive with name tags, meaning, I don’t get a choice. It was like that for Noah, Izzy Lane’s five-year-old son in The Good Neighbor. It was that way for Izzy’s eighty-five-year-old next-door-neighbor, Mrs. Feldman.  But Izzy’s name was chosen by me. Sort of. The Good Neighbor is very loosely inspired by Christmas In Connecticut, a 1945 movie whose main character is Elizabeth Lane. That’s my main character’s name: Elizabeth Lane. Izzy is her nickname. To choose that nickname I Googled—you guessed it—nicknames for Elizabeth (there are so many). I also use the Social Security site for naming characters in line with the time and place a character was born. But more likely than not, they just tap me on the shoulder (or push me down) and tell me what their names are. I have more stories about the characters’ names in The Good Neighbor, but I’ll save those for another time! 

How do you name your characters?

Please welcome Lynn to Women’s Fiction Writers, learn about her naming journey with her current novel, and add your stories to the comments!

Amy xo

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Guest Post: How Do You Picture Your Fictional Characters? by Alana Cash

mirror-clipart-Picture-143-271x300How much do you know about the characters in your writing? Do you know what they look like? I don’t. That’s right! I know everything about their lives and psyches and personalties and quirks, but not always the way they look. I don’t use doppelgängers. I know a few key things that help me write. For instance, in my upcoming novel, The Good Neighbor, Izzy Lane has short, layered hair that used to be long. She’s tall. Her eighty-five-year-old next-door-neighbor and confidante, Mrs. Feldman? I know she’s a vibrant octogenarian, but that’s it. Izzy’s best friend Jade is tall, and has long straightened hair, and Izzy’s cousin Rachel is short, and has short curly hair. WOW. I know hair, don’t I?

But I think I’m in the minority. I think most people really know what their characters look like. And that’s what’s so great about our guest post today. Here, Alana Cash gives examples and tools for really picturing your characters. Is that something you’d give a try?

I’m going to. I’m 75 pages into one WIP and two pages into another. Maybe this new method will spur my imagination in new and unusual ways. 

And that’s always a good thing!

Please welcome Alana Cash to WFW. And share in the comments how you picture your characters!

Amy xo

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Guest Post: An Author Fearing Forty by Meredith Schorr

Here’s a question for you…do you take your age into consideration when making your writing career goals? Your life goals that aren’t writing related? Have you changed your goals based on how old you are and what you have or haven’t accomplished? 

I had my first essay published in a major newspaper when I was 42. My first novel was published by St. Martin’s Press when I was 49. At 50, I’m ready to ramp up, not slow down, or even accept the status quo in anything. I do know that birthdays are milestones, a way to mark time and accomplishments. Even in THE GOOD NEIGHBOR, my next novel, my main character, Izzy Lane, uses her own 40th birthday as a deadline to make a big change in her life. Birthdays are relatable. We all have them (when we’re lucky). 

Today, Meredith Schorr shares her fear of turning 30 and then 40 — and how her next book tackles the age-old topic of women aging–what that means, and what it doesn’t. 

Please welcome Meredith to WFW!

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Multi-Published Author Yona Zeldis McDonough Peels Back Her Women’s Fiction Covers

Yona 1How many of us dream about what our book covers might look like, whether we’re two weeks, two months, or two years away from that process? When The Glass Wives was ready for a cover, I “let go” because not only did I know it was out of my hands and into those of a capable designer (and my editor), but I had no preconceived notions. I knew what I thought wouldn’t work—the popular cupcake, for instance. And if you’ve been around here for a while, or if you glance to the right, you’ll see why I was pleased. The cover for The Glass Wives captured the tone of the book. And THAT was what was most important to me. I have some thoughts (private thoughts) on what I think might work for my next book, THE GOOD NEIGHBOR, but we’re not quite at that stage (soon, though, soon).

Today, amazing author Yona Zeldis McDonough who has written more than twenty children’s books and six novels for adults (and more) reveals what she thinks about the covers for her books. If you ask me (you did, right?) they’re beautiful, but we think so much about what our book covers convey and what they don’t. We wince if we think something is too light, too serious, too vague, too specific.

Share your thoughts in the comments. And take a look at Yona’s book covers as you welcome her back to Women’s Fiction Writers.

Amy xo

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Take Cover!

by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Yona 1Let’s just agree to scrap that old adage about not judging a book by its cover because we know it’s a big, fat lie; we all judge books by their covers, especially when wading through a sea of them on shelves and tables at our local Barnes and Noble or indie bookstores. Covers instantly relay information about the kind of book and author we’re considering. They beckon to some readers and send others heading for the hills. They whisper, they tease, they cajole, seduce and shout. They are of vital importance and so we ought to just own up to that fact: what’s on the cover is crucial to getting a potential reader to actually pick up your book and look inside. As the author of six novels, twenty-three books for children and the editor of two essay collections, I know from whence I speak.

When my first novel, THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS, came out from Doubleday in 2002, I was mostly pleased with the cover, which was dramatic, bold and intriguing. The dark background suggested the novel’s darker aspects and the placement of the violin suggested the sensual curves of a woman’s supine body. (That the dancer’s foot was depicted in an entirely incorrect position was something that bothered me but not the publisher, who would not change it when I pointed it out.)   The cover was designed to appeal to women but not exclusively so; a man might read the book with censure or embarrassment. This, although I did not fully understand it yet, was a huge plus. My second book with Doubleday, IN DAHLIA’S WAKE, came out three years later. The cover photo—a delicately washed out image of a townhouse in brownstone Brooklyn—was evocative and gender neutral—good things—but also a bit tepid and unmemorable. The book did significantly less well than the first and I do have to wonder about the role the cover played in that.

When I published, BREAKING THE BANK, novel #3, I had switched publishers and was now at Downtown Press, a division of Simon & Schuster. Unlike the first two books, which came out in hardcover, this one was a paperback original.   The cover, which showed a woman from behind over whose red umbrella a shower of bills rained down, was a good one—specific to the book, and attention getting in its own right. But the lone female in the red coat was beginning to inch toward chick-lit territory, a neighborhood I would soon inhabit more firmly with the publication of novels #4, A WEDDING IN GREAT NECK and #5, TWO OF A KIND.

The cover of Wedding depicts not just a woman but a bride from behind and the array of hands that fuss with her dress, as well as the Tiffany-box blue background and embossed gold lettering fairly pulsate with the damning words chick lit, chick lit. And the wedding-themed cover of TWO OF A KIND says the same. I happen to love both of these covers and feel they convey essential thematic information about the books. In the case of WEDDING, which is told from several points of view—though not the bride’s—I loved how the bride on the cover was being done to. She was an object, rather than a subject, a fact that underscores something important about the choice of narration I made in the book. In TWO OF A KIND, the couple (seen from the back—natch!) is seated apart, separated by an aisle. The man is looking straight ahead; the woman is turned in profile looking at him. From their body language we sense the tension and dissonance between them, postures that mirror precisely what transpires in the novel.

Novel # 6, YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME, is even further along the chick-lit spectrum. The dominant color scheme is pink and white. And it depicts shoes (read: girl-y) and not just any shoes either. Pink, peep-toed shoes, with white polka dots. And they face a pair of shoes made for a baby girl.   Now I happen to love this cover. It’s is bold and arresting in its own right, and it really does speak to the book’s essential theme: how motherhood is almost a confrontation with a tiny new stranger.   But it is also a very gender specific cover; no guy is going to be caught reading that book on the subway—not even my husband!

The chick lit association these covers also tend to lighten and even cheapen the words inside them. Now let me say something about chick lit here. Despite the fact that women are—and have historically always been—the big consumers of novels of all kinds, the books designed to appeal to our interests and sensibilities are somehow demoted and tainted with that chick lit brush. It’s a bad brush too: it says your book is unimportant, shallow, trivial and not well written. Never mind that when men write about relationships or domestic issues, they are hailed as brave and revelatory. When we women do it, we are relegated to the chick lit ghetto, a place from which it is hard to escape. I’m sorry to report that my very own indie bookstore, a store with the word community in its name, did not want to carry my new book, despite the fact that I have lived in the neighborhood for more than twenty years. When I expressed my disappointment to the owner of the store, he made it clear that he thought my book had little merit—because of its cover. Had he bothered to read or even look at it, he might have thought otherwise.

The ideal cover is gender neutral—one that either a woman or man would want to pick up. (Many women avoid books with high heels, birthday cakes and back views of female figures standing by the ocean or a lake too.) But most writers do not get a say in their covers. And even when they do, they still need to be attentive to the market place. My books are going to appeal to women, and so the covers should be appealing to them as well. If there are times when I feel the cover skims the surface and does not plumb the depths, so be it. As a wise friend said to me, “The cover is an ad. And the publisher is more experience in creating that ad than you do.”   He was right. I am a novelist, not an advertizing copywriter or art director. And I know that the words contained within my covers are not ads. They are best and truest expression of what I think, observe, believe and feel and I can render. And I can only hope readers will find their way to them, whatever the covers that contain them.

head shot (2)Yona Zeldis McDonough was educated at Vassar College and Columbia University. She is the award-winning author of six novels and twenty-three books for children, and she is also the editor of two essay collections and is the fiction editor at Lilith Magazine (www.lilith.org). She lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband, two children and two small, yappy Pomeranians. Please visit her at http://www.yonazeldismcdonough.com and https://www.facebook.com/yzmcdonough.

Guest Post: Traci Borum Asks: Do Books Move Or Manipulate You?

COVER - FINAL VERSIONI love to read while I’m writing. I love to read books that in some way tackle a topic, introduce a character, or explore a theme like one I’m writing. This allows me to not only read like a reader but like a writer. I note what works for me and what doesn’t, how I’d like to accomplish some thing like, or differently from, the author. So when Traci Borum emailed and told me her idea for a post on whether authors move to us authentic feelings or manipulate us — I was sold! What do you think? Do you identify when you feel like something in a book is being pushed at you? Do you mind? Is subtlety enough? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Please welcome Traci Borum to Women’s Fiction Writers! (And check out the trailer for Traci’s book after you read her post!)

Amy xo

Do Books Move Or Manipulate You?

By Traci Borum

COVER - FINAL VERSIONFor authors, getting a reader to care about characters is vital.  If readers don’t care, they probably won’t finish reading the book.  But there’s a fine line between being moved and being manipulated.  If your main goal as the writer is to produce tears in your reader, then be prepared for the backlash.  Your efforts might just produce eye rolls instead of teardrops.  A smart reader, a conscientious reader, can see right through that manipulation.

My friend Karen and I were having this conversation just last week.  She had finished reading a popular best-selling novel that was recently turned into a film.  And although she enjoyed the story, she felt pushed and prodded into liking it every inch of the way.  She could see the writer…writing.  She told me, “{The book} did have some excellent lines, but I didn’t get to feel like I discovered them.  I felt like I was pushed down a neon-lit road to them: ‘Life-changing advice ahead! This way!’”

So how do we, as writers, evoke emotions in our readers without trying too hard?  How do we avoid having readers peek behind the curtain, watching us work, knowing precisely what we’re up to?  It’s actually pretty simple.  Just write the story with truth.  Stay honest in each moment.  Be in that moment yourself, as you write it, and let the character, the plot, the dialogue, all ring with truth.  Don’t worry about the reader’s reaction.  Let the characters tell the story.

Also, it’s important to become invested in your own characters.  If you care about your characters and you write them honestly, it will translate to your readers.  They’ll be right there, alongside you, caring about what happens to these people.

Finally, be aware.  Listen to your gut, your inner editor, and realize when you’re trying too hard—when you’ve got the readers’ reactions in mind more than the characters’ reactions.

A good way to test the “moving vs. manipulating” issue is to let someone read your work—a trusted friend, a beta reader, a critique partner.  Don’t mention what your goal is (to test that your writing is authentic and not manipulative).  But once they’ve read the book or the specific scene you’re worried about, then grill them.  Ask about their reactions to the scene, to the characters.  And be prepared for the result.  If readers feel genuinely moved, they’ll talk about the characters and specifics of the scene, and their reaction will be written all over their faces.  You’ll hear it in their tone of voice—an urgency, an excitement, an involvement in the story.  And that tells you that you’ve succeeded.  But, if readers shrug or feel lukewarm about a scene that should’ve been gripping or life-changing for the character—or if readers use phrases like “I didn’t really connect with it”—it’s time to go back to the drawing board.  You might have to take a different approach, or change the setting or dialogue, or even re-think the entire scene.  Whatever it takes, try again.

Because when readers are absorbed in your story, in your characters, then, trust me—when that character is in pain, or experiences a joyful moment, or when that character dies, your readers will be moved.  They can’t help themselves.  Because by that point, they’ve stopped seeing you write.  They’ve quit trying to peek behind the curtain.  By that point, they’re invested in what happens.  You’ve made them care without even trying.  No gimmicks, no tactics, no forcing of truths or tears.  Just honesty.

Traci Borum pictureTraci Borum is a writing teacher and native Texan. She’s also an avid reader of women’s fiction, most especially Elin Hilderbrand and Rosamunde Pilcher novels. Since the age of 12, she’s written poetry, short stories, magazine articles, and novels.

Traci also adores all things British. She even owns a British dog (Corgi) and is completely addicted to Masterpiece Theater-must be all those dreamy accents! Aside from having big dreams of getting a book published, it’s the little things that make her the happiest: deep talks with friends, a strong cup of hot chocolate, a hearty game of fetch with her Corgi, and puffy white Texas clouds always reminding her to “look up, slow down, enjoy your life.”

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