Women’s Fiction, etc.

An ongoing discussion for readers/writers of Women’s Fiction

Neophite Adventures

Inspiration has been elusive lately.  I haven’t been able to come up with a label for this blog, let alone finish the chapter I’ve been chipping out of stone the past couple of weeks.  For me, creativity comes from being outdoors, and with the Holiday weekend approaching, a road trip was in order!  For Gary and I, that’s motorcycle camping somewhere I can fly fish and he can bicycle his guts out.

We had reservations at Silver Lake – in the Sierras above Mammoth, but as of Thursday morning they had two inches of snow on the ground.  Brrrr.  I quickly reconnoitered, and was lucky – I got reservations in Kernville (in the mountains outside Bakersfield) at our favorite campground on the Kern River. 

We left Friday to sprinkles and stop ‘n go traffic through L.A., which graduated to a full-blown rainstorm at the Grapevine.  Pelting rain and 42 degrees.  We passed a wreck; a car had rolled, helicopter hovered, emergency vehicles flashing warnings to traffic. 

            Down the hill it was sunny and 72 degrees, and I looked back at the Mordor-like clouds sheeting rain – beautiful.  We rode an empty two lane happily through fields of grapes, alfalfa and groves of nut trees.  Odd clouds ahead though, with a tan horizon.  The wind picked up as we rode into a sandstorm!  Gary’s from West Texas, and has told me of them, but I never would have dreamed I’d see one in California. 

            Everything wet became mud, and my bright yellow motorcycle no longer was.  I sit writing this in “Cheryl’s Diner” Saturday morning drinking coffee, my point to this blog obscured by tangents. Then again, maybe not.

             Inspiration has returned, like the signs of spring I see all around me.  Starved for it?  Here’s a suggestion, go to www.smithmag.net/sixwordsThey have a challenge; describe your life in 6 words or less.  Sounds impossible, but once you get started, it’s like writing odd poetry.  The introspection tapped me directly in to my muse, and I created of a couple while riding in the rain.  The title to this blog isn’t just about writing…you’ve heard the term ‘old soul’?  That’s not me.  It may not be my first time, but you can still see the creases from the wrapper.


I think I can, I think…

Mistakes; life in disguise.

I learn slowly, remember long.

Hawk heart, unfortunately same size brain.

End comes, I go.  Smiling.


Give it a shot – you may not need an adventure to find inspiration!



Reader’s / Writer’s toolbox

 At Stephen King’s suggestion (no, he’s not a personal friend – it’s in his book, On Writing), I created a file on my computer entitled “Toolbox”.  In it, I keep my tools for writing.  One section is for websites that come in handy for reading or writing.  I’ll share the best with you here.  More can be found at: http://www.writersdigest.com/101BestSites/

Here are my favorites:


http://www.amazon.com/  – (of course)

http://www.bookspot.com/reviews/ – For reviews by NYT, and many others


http://bookmooch.com/ – A free online used book sharing site – Did I say FREE?!


http://www.biblio.com/ – find/purchase out of print books



http://thesaurus.reference.com/ – The best online thesaurus I’ve ever found


http://dictionary.reference.com/ – The best dictionary I’ve found


http://babelfish.altavista.com/ – Online translator – popular languages (no Swahili-sorry)


http://baby-names.adoption.com/ – Names – listed by country as well.


· Quotations:

· Slang:

· Movie Cliches

· Rhyming Dictionary

· Lyrics

Urban Dictionary

Slang Dictionary

Language Dictionary

Alpha Agora: A forum for discussions on dialects, slang, accents, etc.

Internet Acronym Server

RhymeZone Rhyming Dictionary and Thesaurus

Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online

 Word Spy – The Top 100



WA’s Curious Words Page

· Grammar

· Ask Jeeves

Agent Query
http://writersmarket.com – I use this – its’ the BEST!
http://longstoryshort.us – critting queries free!

Check out agents – scams

· Thesaurus

· Maps


http://writing.com -great, especially for new writers.


Romance sites

Market/event listings/writer organizations
http://writing.shawguides.com – writing conferences

Just plain interesting!

 I collect these like baseball cards – you can’t have too many!  I’m always looking for new helpful sites, so I’d love to hear your favorites.




RWA – A Shameless Plug

For any writers who may read this – I just wanted to recommend membership in a wonderful organization, Romance Writers of America.  Look it up online – chances are there’s a local chapter not far from you. 


First, let me say that membership is not restricted to Romance Writers.  I’ve met members in my chapter who write Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Westerns, etc.  I joined for several reasons:

·        Writing is, for the most part, a solitary endeavor.  My husband and friends support me, but none of them really understand my passion.  It’s amazing to attend a monthly meeting with 100 other people who do.

·        Education – we have speakers at every meeting, covering different aspects of writing: plot, characterization, dialog, etc.  I’ve learned so much –free!

·        Classes.  My chapter, as well as many others Nationwide put on low cost online classes.  Everything from Query writing to forensic facts… and lots in between.  You’re bound to find one that would help your writing.

·        National Annual conference.

·        Networking – when (not if) you get published, you have a ready-made network of readers, and buyers.

·        Recognition


I’ve even met an agent through my chapter to whom I’ve submitted a partial manuscript (fingers firmly crossed!)

All this in just four months of membership – believe me, I’ve sure gotten a “bang for my buck” of dues.  You may want to look into it!



Harris Poll on “Your favorite book”

I read on Publisher’s Lunch yesterday that Harris International did a poll of American adults and asked, “What is your favorite book of all time?”  The answers:

1.      The Bible

2.       Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

3.       Lord of the Rings (series), by J.R.R. Tolkien

4.      Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling

5.      The Stand, by Stephen King

6.      The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown

7.      To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

8.      Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown

9.      Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

10.  Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

Wow, I was shocked – first, because 4 of my top 4 favorites were there (2,5,7& 9).  Second, because there wasn’t one “literary work” listed (not counting the bible – I don’t know how to categorize that).

In my humble opinion, his tells us several things about the American reader:  First, obviously reading is not dead.  The fact that none of these were comics tells us people are still reading, and not at a low level either.  They didn’t publish the demographics, so I don’t know whom they asked, but Harris is an esteemed poll, so I’m going to assume it was a true cross-section of the population.

Next, in spite of critics, ivory-tower professors and snobs, “literary works” aren’t as well loved as a good, a old-fashioned yarn.  After all, I don’t see Faulkner or Hemmingway on that list – not even Jane Austen!   What I see all the above have in common is that they’re great stories, told in a colorful and straightforward manner.  I’ve always had the secret belief that “literary fiction” (apologies to my friend Ann who swears the term doesn’t exist) is what people buy as a “coffee table book” to leave around the house to impress their friends with what they’re reading (but don’t). 

Now don’t misunderstand me, I really enjoy Steinbeck, Twain, Dickens and others.  I’m just saying that they don’t make my top ten list, and obviously not others’ either.  What’s wrong with popular fiction?  What’s wrong with admitting you read Harlequin?  I’ll admit to cringing at taking a “bodice ripper” to the beach to read.  Hey, given the stats on how many books the average American reads per year, shouldn’t we be happy they are reading anything? 

Read what you like – proudly.

Wandering musings on writing

I attended a one-day conference last weekend – Literary Orange.  If you live in the Southern California area, I highly recommend it.  I attend anything locally I can find, mostly for the inspiration I find there.  Writing is such a solitary endeavor that I enjoy the opportunity to hang out with people who “get,” writing.

The keynote speaker was Elizabeth George.  She gave insights into her creative process that were fascinating.  She said something that stuck with me. 

“I don’t know what I think until I write it down.”

I had never thought of it that way, but I realize this is true for me as well.  Some days after I read what I’ve written – an emotion or opinion of a character – I realize that I didn’t know that I knew what they knew!  It somehow solidifies a random thought, and feels like a puzzle piece falling into place, and I see things differently.  Love it when that happens! 

Writing (as in life) is all about focus.   I think what you chose to write about gives insight into what you’re focusing on.   This reminds me of a very wise thing I heard from a Native American over the summer.  My husband and I were on a bicycle vacation through New Mexico, and visited the Acoma “Sky City” pueblo.  The following quote was from our guide.

“Our culture is an oral one, and we ask that while you are here that you don’t write, tape or otherwise record anything while you are on the mesa.  We ask this not because we do not want you to have it – we believe that through listening only, you will take with you that which speaks to you.”

I believe that we all take along that which speaks to us – and what we chose tells us something about ourselves, doesn’t it?



A wonderful idea…

A friend referred me to a great blog – http://thefirstbook.wordpress.com/

The blogger interviews first time authors.  What a great idea!   Helpful for the author as a free plug for their work, helpful for aspiring authors (if only as a reminder that there are sucess stories) and those looking for a new read. 

I thought I’d try to do the same to promote women’s fiction authors.  I’m going to see what I can find, and some first time authors to interview for this blog.  Check back – coming soon!


What I’m Reading….

The novel I’m reading now is a good example of the difference between Romance and Women’s Fiction (and a darned good read besides!)  It’s Jo-Ann Mapson’s The Owl & Moon Cafe.

As in a romance novel, I knew in the first ten pages who the primary heroine’s man would end up to be, and the secondary character’s by page 70.  So why keep reading?  The world she weaves is complex and vivid, the characters real to life.  I want to know what happens…

Will the awkward teenager ever fit in?  Will the grandmother overcome Leukemia?  Will she fall again for the love of her youth (who just happens to be the father of her daughter).  To read this, it sounds like a soap opera – but thanks to the author’s rich writing style it feels more like…life.

I know it will all work out in the end – even if the grandmother dies.  This is why I am a constant reader of this genre; it’s real and mature enough to hold my interest, but it feels “safe” enough to immerse myself in.  What do I mean by “safe”? 

I don’t usually to go to the movies.  It’s two hours where I’m sucked into a story, and it doesn’t always end well.  “Steel Magnolias” just tore me up.  I guess I allow myself to get too involved, and can be really effected by the outcome.  With women’s fiction, the stories are true to life, but are concluded in such a way that even if there’s a sad ending, the writer lets you down easy.