I Write Novels For Women. Now, Please. Put On Your Lipstick And GET OVER IT.

As you might surmise from the title of this blog, and because many of you know me by now, I embrace the term women’s fiction. I understand that agents and editors need an idea of what they might be getting from an author, that everyone specializes nowadays, that there are categories and bookshelves (wooden, plastic, virtual) and there needs to be some kind of system, albeit flawed.

But I also don’t mind the label because I WRITE MY BOOKS FOR WOMEN.

Yes, there were men who read The Glass Wives. I think there were six or eight of them (okay, maybe five) and only one or two were related to me. This didn’t bother me at all. Not a smidgen.

I write my books to tell myself a story I don’t yet know, but that I want to know. As the process continues I begin to think about readers, what readers need to engage with my story and make it their own. Those readers I think of are always women. My main characters are women and they’re interacting, mostly, with and because of, other women.

See how that works?

I like my feminine book covers. The only thing I ever said about book covers to my editor was that I felt strongly that my covers represented the tone of what was inside the book. And they do.

Now don’t get me wrong. There is part of this women-in-publishing uproar I understand and support.

Fact: There is no “men’s fiction” label or category, and books by men about families or relationships are filed under domestic dramas, literary, or general fiction, even if the main character is a woman. That’s wrong, and many are working to change that. Some are working to make sure it doesn’t change.

Fact: Fewer books by women are reviewed, awarded, and recognized by the industry. That’s wrong too. Especially–or perhaps only–when the books written by women really ARE gender neutral and could have mass appeal if not marketed specifically to women.

The problem, as I see it, isn’t writing for women and being proud to do so without reservation and WITH great book covers, the problem is when it is assumed that all books written by women are for women only.

That’s the issue.

It’s okay if you’re a woman and your books appeal to the general public. So it has to be ok if you’re a woman and your books are meant to appeal to women.

There are many people/Tweeters/FBers/writers who explode at the thought of a feminine book cover or women’s fiction label. It’s wrong, they type in all CAPS and BOLD. DON’T FEMININE BOOK COVERS MAKE YOU MAD? WHAT ABOUT PRETTY AUTHOR PHOTOS? AARGH! BOO! HISS!

I don’t know about you, but I do not want to look like a dude in my author photo.

It might be wrong for some, but lipstick and good lighting are right for me.

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I want to write books about women that appeal to women. I’m not doing this by accident. It’s intentional as much as it’s organic. Those are the stories of my heart, and those are the only ones I can write. Those are the only ones that keep me up at night, keep me revising a paragraph until my words say precisely what I mean for them to say in precisely the way I mean them to. And with the right cadence. I did it just this morning with the last paragraph of my next novel (not done yet, but when the last paragraph presents itself, you write it).

So while I might resent the fact that women’s fiction gets eye-rolls and shrugs and some people (women) I know say they don’t read “those kinds” of books (what? about PEOPLE?). I say, too bad. Or at least I say it in my head. And I move on.

Not only do you need a thick skin in this business, but a resilient heart.

What I don’t want is to be pigeon-holed, especially by other women, into believing that my stories for women are wrong, that I shouldn’t be writing with only women in mind.

Because that’s wrong too.

When and if I write a book that I believe appeals to a non-gender specific reading public, I’ll jump the fence—right over—while holding my skirt high in the air, so I don’t fall on my face and smear my lipstick.

Until then, I’m over it.

You should be too.

DON’T MISS OUT!

THE GOOD NEIGHBOR ARC GIVEAWAY!

(YES, MEN CAN ENTER TOO!)

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It’s Book Giveaway Time! One ARC of THE GOOD NEIGHBOR is up for grabs!

In honor of a long-awaited, family weekend with both of my kids and my parents (something that hasn’t happened in about a year and a half) I’m giving away ONE of my precious ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) of THE GOOD NEIGHBOR, which officially lands on readers’ doorsteps on October 13, 2015!

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This way I know I can keep you all busy entering and tweeting! I don’t want you getting into any trouble while I’m gone. ;-)

The only thing you have to do is tell me in the comments about your favorite neighbor growing up. (The rest of the entry options are not mandatory.)

When you read THE GOOD NEIGHBOR you’ll meet Izzy Lane, who moves back to her childhood home with her five-year-old son, and right next door to Mrs. Feldman, the woman who has been her surrogate grandmother as long as she can remember. The tables turn a bit as Izzy begins to see she can help Mrs. Feldman as a thanks for all the help she’s given Izzy her whole life.

I wrote this book for many reasons (more blog posts on those as pub day nears) but one was to pay homage to the Northeast Philadelphia street I lived on for 19 years — from the age of 5 until I married and moved away at 26. I didn’t want to write a book set in the 1970s (too much research for me, bowing down to my histfic writing pals) but I did want Izzy to have the same kind of memories I had, the same kind of affection for her city street and neighborhood. And she does.

Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, and I am a proud product of one of them. Many neighbors fill my memories, and I’m not silly enough to name a favorite when they all hold a special place in my heart. I’ll write more about my real neighborhood (not Izzy’s, as that is a reimagined cluster of many neighborhoods I know) another time!

Have fun with the giveaway and good luck!

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Novelist Laura Nicole Diamond And The Beauty Of The Writing Community

Shelter Us cover, Kline blurbShe had me at community. And those of you who know me know that’s what this blog, and every writing group (in real life and online), each string of emails between myself and another writer, every long writer lunch, phone call, or nod, hearkens back to. No one understand the writer community—especially of women (roll your eyes if you must, but it’s true)—like we do. No one understands until she’s in it. And then you wonder where these people, who understand and make you feel sane, have been all your life. 

I feel so lucky to be part of a myriad of writer communities, and WFW is at the top. After all, I created this blog, this place, because I couldn’t find what I was looking for, the information and inspiration and authors, anywhere else.

Today, the lovely Laura Nicole Diamond joins us to share her own story of experiencing community in writing and publishing. Please welcome Laura to WFW, and add your thoughts in the comments!

Amy xo

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The Glass Wives, A Discount, and A Teaser

It’s been almost two years (May 14th, 2013) since THE GLASS WIVES hit bookshelves. That was, and remains, quite a journey. And now as we move toward the release of THE GOOD NEIGHBOR on October 13th, look who’s poking up her pretty little head and saying DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME, MA! (Notice how St. Martin’s Press used the same font on the cover of both of my novels? That’s a little bit of branding, folks!)

And now, THE GLASS WIVES ebook is $5.99!

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If you haven’t read it, now’s a great time. I mean, look at the blue sky. It totally says IT’S SPRING SO READ ME. DRINK TEA AND READ ME. SPIKE YOUR TEA IF YOU WANT, BUT READ ME.

You can also gift ebooks and $5.99 is the right price. JUST IN TIME FOR MOTHER’S DAY!

Here’s a Kindle link: KINDLE LINK FOR THE GLASS WIVES

Here’s a Nook link: NOOK LINK FOR THE GLASS WIVES

More soon on THE GOOD NEIGHBOR and maybe more news soon on other things too. Oh my, what might that mean???

Amy xo 

Don’t have the 4-1-1 on THE GLASS WIVES or need a refresher?

Here’s the review that was featured in Shelf Awareness for Readers on May 28th, 2013.

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About Face—What I See (And What I Don’t See) When I Write

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I have no clue what my characters look like.

Okay, not 100% true. Just almost. I have no idea what their whole faces look like.

I do not clip pictures from magazines and glue stick them into a scrapbook, or have a Pinterest board filled with head shots. I don’t picture old neighbors or cousins or superstars when I write. I see beings, an aura, a movement.  It’s as if the characters are traveling to fast for me to get a good look, or maybe I’m just so polite that I don’t want to stop them to stare. Even in a serious and intense scene, I don’t see faces.

Kinda creepy, now that I think of it.

I can glimpse the hair and see it messy or or coiffed. I know the color and style. I’m familiar with the character’s gait, shoulder width,and height. I certainly know if there’s a bump on a nose or a cleft in the chin. I define fashion sense. And sometimes I know eye color.

But I still don’t see faces.

When asked who would play my characters in a movie, I freeze. I don’t see my “people” on a screen, I see them on a page. Not that I’d reject a movie deal should Hollywood come to call, but I’d be more likely to say who I think could “pull off” the character rather than who looks like her.

When you meet Izzy Lane (for which I cannot wait!!) my main character in The Good Neighbor, you’ll know early on that her hair is short because her ex-husband always liked it long. I wrote Izzy tall (five-foot-nine) because that’s how I pictured her, with a gracefulness that I envision comes with long limbs. I don’t think I ever described the face of Izzy’s next-door-neighbor, Mrs. Feldman. She’s eighty-five. She’s spry. She speaks her mind. And she is also scared of a long-held secret. So, picture her as you want her to look. Like your favorite teacher, a grandmother, aunt or friend. Or leave her face peacefully blank, or always turned slightly away, filled in by story and emotion, not features.

In my work-in-progress, there’s a twelve-year-old girl. She is gangly in the way you know will turn into gracefulness in a few years, maybe more. She has long red hair and a tentative smile. I watched and recorded several cooking shows that featured kids, because I don’t have any twelve-year-old girls in my life and there were a few on the shows. One had just the right smile. Another was a little too grown up, but that was good to see. Another seemed a little too young. I noticed unplucked eyebrows and braces. Whimsy. Big smiles. Bigger tears. Those are the elements of a character to me, much more so than a portrait.

I write for myself, but my novels are published for my readers. I trust them to take good care of the characters, to allow the people on the page to be who the readers need them to be for that story—to look the part and be perfect for that reader only.

Do you picture faces when you read? Famous faces or everyday faces?  If you’re a writer, who do you see when you write your own stories?

 

 

 

Guest Post: Author Lindsey J. Palmer Writes About Living In New York City And Major Life Milestones In Her New Novel

If We Lived HereToday, author Lindsey J. Palmer poses a foreboding question: how do we—and our characters—handle major life changes? How about those milestone birthdays? (You know the ones.)In Lindsey’s newest novel, IF WE LIVED HERE, the main character, Emma, is on the cusp of turning thirty. How does Emma cope? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

I have to admit that what impressed me even more than the premise (and I love books set in NYC because I love NYC) was the fact that Lindsey was writing her second published novel before she turned thirty. 

My debut was published in 2013 when I was forty-nine. When I was thirty I had a two-year-old and lived in an early nineteen-twenties Cape Cod in New Jersey. I had the picket fence, both literally and figuratively. Times have changed. 

And I think that’s what IF WE LIVED HERE is about. Changing times. Adapting. Figuring things out along the way. Making it work. Living life. 

I can totally relate. Even if when I was thirty, there was no computer in my house, telephones were attached to walls, stamps cost twenty-nine cents—and people still used stamps.

Please welcome Lindsey J. Palmer back to WFW!

Amy xo

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This Is My Brain On Index Cards

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I could not remember the dead friend’s last name.

I realize this is a problem likely reserved for novelists, because if I had a dead friend, I’d probably recall her last name.

At that point I hadn’t written many pages of my third novel yet, but I had an outline and a short synopsis for my agent, and ideas jotted down on paper just for me. I rifled through all of it.

Cooper.

The last name was Cooper.

I intentionally choose simple last names but obviously THAT memory trick didn’t work this time. I was going to have to figure out something so that this story, the new one, didn’t have me scrolling through pages to remember every name and every eye color.

So you know what this meant. A trip to the corner Walgreens.

There is not a plethora of index cards in Walgreens, but when I’m on a writing roll I am not prone to a shopping trip. So I worked with what I had. I chose the large, white cards because in a moment of stark realism, I know the small ones would not give me enough space because my ideas come out sideways and in large loopy letters, not neatly, and not on little blue lines.

I must say I was disappointed with the quality of the cards. They were more like paper than cards, but I was determined. I wrote each character’s name at the top, and anything I knew about him or her. Boys in blue. Girls in pink. I didn’t have check list or a method, I just jotted down what I knew about the character, mostly things like all their names (middle, maiden, nick—you get the idea), eye color, hair color and style, short or tall, thin or fat, and maybe his or her relationship to another character. I wrote the things that needed to remain consistent through the story, the things that wouldn’t change. Maybe for this novel’s first draft I wouldn’t have to type “find out what color Celia’s eyes were” on page 86, because I’d have a card that told me what i needed to know. I would limit my scrolling backwards and increase my moving forward. And in story writing, that is a good thing.

But I had more cards. What to do?

I don’t use the common novel-writing lingo because it doesn’t work for me. I’m a rebel that way. I find the words CONFLICT and TENSION empty. I look at them and think HUH? But, I do understand WORRY and ANGRY and SCARED and WONDER and SECRET and WANT and NEED.  So I wrote those out on cards for each character. Not in any order. Not the same for each one. Just what I knew to be important. Just what I knew at that time. That’s the great thing about index cards. There are always more.

I also put the major story points on cards. And—I wrote words you’re not supposed to write. AND THEN. That works for me. I wrote each major and minor event (you say plot point, I say event) on an index card followed by the words AND THEN…. This allowed me to consider the flow, and what was happening when and to move things around without major cutting and pasting in my Word doc.

I also wrote themes of the story on cards, and I’ll likely transfer those to—you guessed it—Post It Notes, when it’s time for me to revise. Those will stick all over my computer reminding me of what needs to float beneath the story to give it buoyancy.

For a few weeks I had each stack neatly paper-clipped together and tucked into an adorable little case I could carry around and look all writerly. Then one day I was chatting with my lovely agent and she asked, “What’s the last name of the dead friend again?” (No joke, she really did. She was writing up little blurb for the new book.)

“Oh my god,” I said. “I forget.”

“Well, call me when you remember.”

And then I did remember.

“I have index cards!”

And yes, the last name was still Cooper.

That’s when I realized index cards do not belong in pretty pouches. I wanted the cards out and around me whether I’m on the sofa or in bed (rules out the desk, but I don’t write there anyway).

The cards are like a little pat on the back to myself. I’ve thought it through, I have a plan, there is sense and order where I often feel there’s none. Even on days I get no writing done, I can read a card or two and have a good sense of story, remember something old, think of something new, and add a card to the pile.

I had no roadmap at all for The Glass Wives. When I wrote my debut novel I outlined the Chapter 3 when I finished Chapter 2. Yep, that book took four years to write. Not happening again. Ever. When I wrote The Good Neighbor I started with a (take a deep breath) twenty page synopsis. That synopsis served only as a loose tether to the story, because 1) stories always change as you write them, and 2) who is going through twenty pages to remember what’s just happened, what’s happening now, and what happens next? Not me.

The index cards are manageable size bites of the story and the characters, They’re snippets of time and place, fragments of intention and emotion. And on those days all writers have when the gifts of the writing life are elusive, when the rewards seem improbable and the words are fuzzy, these index cards are tangible rectangular reminders that many thoughts have been already been thought, and much of the work has already been done.

Cooper.