Grace's Mosaic Moments

Sunday, June 25, 2017

What is Women's Fiction?

Sneak peek at the Blue Moon 3 cover - K'kadi to the life!


From Wikipedia:

Women's fiction is an umbrella term for women centered books that focus on women's life experience that are marketed to female readers, and includes many mainstream novels. It is distinct from Women's writing, which refers to literature written by (rather than promoted to) women.

The topic of Women's Fiction came up this past week because I had to judge four entries for a well-known contest sponsored by a chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Each judge is allowed to choose her preferred categories. I, alas, had excluded only three, leaving me, as it turned out, with something called Mainstream with a Central Romance. Fine. I read a lot of Mainstream Romance—Nora Robert's longer works, for example. I also read a lot of Mainstream Mysteries and Suspense, some with romance, some without. So no problem . . . except . . .

Three of the four contest entries were Women's Fiction. In the course of trying to figure out how to judge them and what to tell their authors (only one seemed to realize she was writing Women's Fiction), I was forced to analyze what Women's Fiction is and what makes it different from Romance. I ended up judging the contest entries on their writing merits, not deducting points for lack of romance, but making sure the authors understood they were not writing what RWA considers Romance. (There was much back-and-forthing between the Category Chair and the Contest Chair and me. Fortunately, we were all in agreement over my decision to treat the manuscripts at face value, helping the authors know not only what they needed to do to improve their writing but that they needed to take a second look at what genre they wanted to write.)

Women's Fiction is totally centered around women. There can be multiple points of view, but all the POVs will be from women. Women's Fiction concentrates on women's daily lives, often dealing with angst - birth, death, divorce, betrayal, problems with children, problems at work, health issues, the infirm, the elderly, etc.

 As an editor, I've had some experience with Women's Fiction. One series, in particular, is right on the edge of Romance (with a new couple in each books), even to the extent of offering an occasional male POV. Nonetheless, the stories are centered not just around one heroine but around an entire group of women. As with so many genres, there is quite a bit of leeway, from those that have an actual romance to those where men are totally ignored. But the basic criteria are clear: In Women's Fiction: the stories are strictly female-oriented, with the men as also-rans. Only a few of the male characters are "heroes" in the Romance sense of the word. Some are good men, some are blah. Many are thoughtless, heedless, betrayers, nothing more than baby daddies. Others are more worshipped in death than they were in life. Some WF feature genuine romance, but it's usually peripheral to a story centered around events of so-called female interest in a particular area - often a small town.  

If you have reached Chapter 4 in a book you thought was a romance and no male POV has popped up, you may be reading (or writing) Women's Fiction. [Ignoring first-person books, such as Gothic novels.] In Romance, even Mainstream Romance, it is expected that a strong male character will appear in the beginning chapters of the book. As an author, you might be able to get away with him not having his own point of view yet, but he needs to be an integral part of the plot, even if seen only through the heroine's eyes. He needs to show a gift for some snappy dialogue, whether it's confrontational, professional, flirtatious, or whatever. If you're writing Romance in any of its many sub-genres, you have to get that hero in there right up front. (The preferred method is to allow the hero his own point of view no later than Chapter 2 or 3.) Otherwise, your readers, who dote on heroes, won't like it.

Nor will your agent or editor. Or your Great-aunt Miranda.

Evidently, however, there are a number of women out there who like to read about the trials and tribulations of other women. Maybe it's a case of "There but for the grace of God go I." Or perhaps it's because there's balm in discovering other women have suffered similar problems. Whatever the reason, there seems to be a market for Women's Fiction.

Personally, I only read WF when I'm asked to edit it. My feeling is that there are so many problems in life, I prefer to escape into the world of make-believe and Happily Ever After. I cringe at Act II of Into the Woods, which reveals what happens after Happily Ever After. That much realism I don't need. 

But that's me. (If you'll pardon the vernacular. That would read very oddly if I used correct grammar and wrote:" But that is I.")

The important point of this blog post is to make sure that authors understand the difference between Romance and Women's Fiction. In Romance you need a hero as well as a heroine. The romance needs to occupy a goodly portion of the book. I personally tend to emphasize characters and plot, but make an effort to keep the romance going even when my h/h are involved in action scenes far from the bedroom. 

If you're more interested in the female world - the little every day things and/or the disasters of general living - then perhaps Women's Fiction is for you. You can indulge in all-female dialogue, female-oriented family situations to your heart's content. Grandmothers, Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, Aunts, Girlfriends - these are your characters. Your genre is Women's Fiction. Written by Women, for Women, and forgetabout the men.

If you like female-male interaction, from first meeting to you-know-where, then you're a Romance author (or reader). You have a huge number of sub-genres to choose from, from simple "category" (Harlequin/Silhouette) to long, serious Mainstream Romances, Historical Romance, Romantic Suspense, Mystery with Romance, Paranormal with Romance, SyFy with Romance (sometimes called Futuristic), Fantasy, LBGTQ, etc., etc. (Yes, the latter are male-male or female-female, but they're still Romance.)

So . . . authors, ask yourselves where your heart is. Is it with the traditional trials and tribulations of women? Or do you enjoy writing about the romantic interactions between two people?

The first is Women's Fiction. The second, Romance. 

Authors, know your genre. And don't stray. Each genre has its fans, and you want to be sure you're going after the right market.

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.  


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sorrow & Outrage

Riley & Cassidy "playing around" after Band Camp concert
I was stunned on Thursday night at the Band Camp concert performed by students in grades 5-9 here in Seminole County. There was a Beginners Band who had exactly 8 mornings on their brand new instruments, including Cassidy on trumpet, and you would not believe how good their sound was. Yes, they were playing nursery rhymes, but they did it well. There was also a Beginners Jazz Band that did very well. But the Senior Jazz Band and the Advanced Band? All I can say is, Wow! (Riley has been playing baritone this whole school year, so she was in the advanced group.) They had everything from standard band instruments and a wide variety of percussion to guitars, piano, keyboard, and marimbas. A most enjoyable, and enlightening, experience. Music is alive and well in Seminole County, Florida. (All three grandgirls participated in year-end choral concerts at their schools, but Band Camp is something new for them.)


Last Monday night (June 12, 2017), c. 50,000 people jammed downtown Orlando for a Memorial service on the first anniversary of the Pulse shooting. In addition to the massive public remembrance, for the first time victims' families and survivors were allowed inside the fence for a private memorial service. I could only bear to watch a portion of the television coverage. Remembering is important but very painful. Before church last Sunday our organist rang the chimes 49 times. In a congregation known for chit-chatting through the organ prelude, you could have heard a pin drop. We may live 20 miles north, but this happened to US, to every one of us. When they talk about Orlando United, they mean all those who ring this city known round the world. The city that gets 68,000,000 visitors a year because of our theme parks, our nearby beaches, and our sporting events. (That's more than half the visitors to the state of Florida.)

And Homeland Security says we're "too small" to get extra government funding for security measures! 

Of course any "extra measures" wouldn't have protected the people at a warehouse a block from my daughter's and son-in-law's former office in Winter Park. Five were killed this week in what's come to be known as a "workplace killing." That was followed by a similar shooting at a UPS facility in another party of the country. And then came the shooting on the baseball field in Virginia. A so-called "Democrat" targeting Republicans. I guess you'd have to call that one an "extremist political" killing. 

And those are just this week! 

What's gone wrong? How did this happen? Yes, we were brought up on Wild West movies and Space Operas, but we knew it was fiction. 

Didn't we . . . ? 

Actually, so many Westerns, old and new, had a moral to their story. They taught honor and courage and "doing the right thing." As did that most famous of space operas, Star Trek, with nearly every episode a morality tale.

So what happened? How did we fall so far so fast? To the point that hate and violence are tearing at the very fabric of the country we love.

I'd like to blame ISIS for slamming the world with mindless terrorism. Or do we blame the fanaticism of Medieval Crusaders who allegedly sparked ISIS's revenge? Then there's the utter depravity of Hitler and the holocaust. And those who want to blame all our woes on video games, or the National Rifle Association. Others decry too much permissiveness in the schools, too few teeth in our criminal justice system, and/or a general deterioration in manners for the loss of civility in government (and, let's face it, just about everywhere else). 

And yet . . .

I look at the remarkable people who make up the congregation in my church each Sunday. And I go to events like Thursday night's Band Camp concert and view a room full of eager students and supportive parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, and uncles. I see REAL people, good people, and I know there's still hope. But the rhetoric has to be toned down. We have to be able to disagree without inflammatory language. Without hate. Without violence. Whether in the workplace, on the street, or in the halls of Congress, fanaticism and volatility have to go. 

Running off at the mouth:   OUT!

Violence:  OUT!

Hate:  OUT!

We have to live together, work together, agree to disagree in a civil manner. And we need those in power to lead the way, not shoot from the hip.

Enough said. The message is clear. Time to straighten up and fly right. 

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Cultural Confusion


 The 49 victims of the Pulse massacre


 for the continuing recovery of the 53 survivors

 for the victims' families & First Responders


My glorious Gloriosa Lilies are in bloom again. 

Update on Florida's Rainy Season:

This year we went from drought to monsoon in a single day. On Tuesday, May 30, our unusually long drought broke with a vengeance. The "rainy season" usually means that it rains nearly every day from June 1 to late September, sometime between 4-6 p.m. A brief shower or thunder shower, with the sun shining brightly both before and after. This year, we've had all-day clouds and almost unremitting deluges. Today, even the newspaper delivery person was caught short. My plastic-wrapped paper was soaked through from top to bottom, and still unreadable at three in the afternoon. (Rain at night is rare during the rainy season.) We are promised that things should settle down to a more normal pattern by the middle of next week, but meanwhile Longwood is at 10+ inches in ten days, and counting. My garden is positively quivering with joy!

~ * ~



I've had some bad luck with my reading lately, enough so that I gave up on at least three books and struggled through one only because it was so bad I was taking notes for this blog. Sigh. Even then, I gave up twice, only to limp back when other books I was reading proved too off-putting to continue. 

So how did I do this to myself? Hmm - I guess my favorite authors aren't writing fast enough for my voracious reading habits, or perhaps I was making a commendable effort to try new authors, to see what's out there besides the tried and true. All I discovered was that some highly touted books and authors just aren't my cup of tea. And the unknown new author still had a great deal to learn. Except . . . perhaps there were lessons my blog readers could learn from yet another highly flawed attempt at what should have been a fascinating read.

As is my practice, I am going to avoid mentioning the book's title, author, or setting, as it is my goal to help authors learn, not suffer from direct criticism, even if it's justified. So pardon me, if I have to circle around the subject here and there.

I chose this particular book - advertised on Amazon - because it sounded like a good action plot and a setting that was unfamiliar to me. But I immediately encountered: wrong words (words that did not mean what the author obviously thought they meant), really bad punctuation (particularly in dialogue), poor sentence structure. (There were so many messed up sentences, I could only assume the author never heard of self-editing.) 

There were also many places where both narration and dialogue were contrary to the social manners and mores of English-speaking peoples of the book's era. For example, calling a baronet Sir Last Name instead of Sir First Name, a female referring to an older man by his last name only (as a man would).

More importantly, there was a vague reference to an event in the past that needed explanation. There was also a general lack of identification of certain characters - possibly because there had been a previous book and the author did not realize he/she had to put everything readers needed to know in the new book and not assume they had read, or remembered, what was in the first book.

Continuity was off. The plot had holes a mile wide. But the worst sin, from my point of view, was appalling characterization. The hero acted "holier than thou" with his friends about their treatment of women, while his own behavior was worse. Definitely not the attitude of an English gentleman of that period, particularly the hero of a novel.

And then, something amazing happened. The book moved into an all-male world, and everything changed. The narration and dialogue perked up, started to sound real. The story became interesting, the characters intriguing. The action sequences were good . . . Uh, what was happening here? 

Now, instead of putting the book aside, I read on, to see if I could puzzle it out. Perhaps the author just made a hash of the beginning and was one of those who never read over what they wrote, because - wow - I was actually interested in what was going to happen next.

And then, with the return of females to the story, the book crashed and burned. The manners and mores of these people (in a time period which is a specialty of mine) were so totally wrong, I cringed. Not just the attitudes of the women but of the men when interacting with the women. What the author wrote was simply outside the bounds of reality for male/female interaction of the time. (Even for interaction between James Bond and his many women two centuries later, the attitudes wouldn't work.) From both male and female point of view, they were totally alien.

And finally, I figured it out. Or at least I think I did. And my horrified reaction mellowed - at least a bit. For the technical mistakes were explained, and perhaps the odd interactions between males and females as well.

1) I began to suspect that this was a book written by someone for whom English was a second language. Certainly, a major accomplishment, if that is so, although the author should have realized he/she needed a native English speaker to edit it before publication.

2) The author was likely male and from a non-European culture, where women - their thoughts, aspirations, and actions - are a complete mystery. A culture where women in general are considered "insidious," dangerous to men and perhaps to themselves. Certainly, none of the women in the book could be called heroine material, or even likable. I was thoroughly disgusted by what I read. And insulted on behalf of females everywhere.

3) There is also the possibility the author was simply an narrow-minded gay, unwilling to edit, who could write about men all day long but should never have thought himself capable of writing from the female point of view.(With apologies to the many gays who exhibit empathy with both sexes, no matter their personal preferences.)


The book in question is part of a series. Its plot and unusual setting have great potential. But the author shoots himself/herself in the foot by trying to delve into a culture he/she knows nothing about. STICK TO WHAT YOU KNOW! Don't write from the viewpoint of the opposite sex or about sex in a different culture, unless you know what you're talking about. I recently edited a book set in India at the time of Buddha. Would I attempt to write such a book? Of course I wouldn't. I have NO idea of the customs of the times, of the proper interactions between males and females in that culture. It would be absurd for me to choose such a setting. 

Yes, most romance writers write from the viewpoint of both hero and heroine. But in our own culture. And we are married, or have been married. And yes, some of us are male. And they too are married, or have been. They know what is the expected thing for a hero or heroine to do. And if their characters deviate from that norm, the writer knows this must be explained, a reason given for not following the manners and mores of the times. 

DO NOT, under any circumstances, plunge into writing about a culture foreign to your personal knowledge. You're Caucasian but raised in Japan? Okay, you may know enough to write in depth about Japanese characters. But the line is thin. Don't cross the cultural gap unless you really know what you're doing. And it's always a good idea to have a native of that culture check your work. Don't emulate the author who created a "hero," plus a variety of female characters, whose behaviors turned my stomach. Frankly, I ended up not caring what happened to any of them.

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.



Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Lady Takes a Risk

Another news story out of Venice, Florida (known as the city of Golden Beach in several of my books of mystery and suspense). This one has a happier ending than the car disaster pictured two weeks ago. Good thing the homeowners looked in their pool before jumping in. When this video was shown on the local TV news, the announcer said that it was mating season and female gators are roaming, looking for safe spots to lay eggs. Uh, sorry, gator. Too much chlorine.

For video of a couple of Sarasota County Sheriff's Deputies rousting a gator from a backyard pool, click here.

The Rainy Season came in with a vengeance on Tuesday, with a deluge strong enough to topple two of my window boxes off the stone wall behind my house. Nobody minded, however, as the drought has been vicious this year. We welcome the daily afternoon rains like manna from heaven. (Sighs of relief from fire departments throughout Florida.)

I'm pleased to announce that Book 5 of my Regency Warrior series went live on Amazon and Smashwords this week. The Lady Takes a Risk is a "dramedy"—a mix of drama and comedy that I truly enjoyed writing. For the past few years I've been caught up in Regency Gothics, which are told from the single viewpoint of a beleaguered female, or tales of SyFy Adventure and Romance in my Blue Moon Rising series. Neither of which lends itself to comedy (although I get to expound on a lot of male viewpoints in the SyFy series). So it was fun to get back to a classic Regency Historical, slipping in viewpoints here and there in addition to the hero and the heroine. (I recall one reviewer saying my first book - Tarleton's Wife - had "slippery" viewpoints! And I did my best to resurrect that style with The Lady Takes a Risk!)

I'm particularly fond of the cover Delle Jacobs did for this one. As well as the beautiful foreground, please note the oast house in the distance. 

The story:

Lady Amelie Sherbrooke is not wanted. In fact, her future mama-in-law has refused to share a house with her. And Amelie, thoroughly enjoying her long-time role as hostess for her father, the Duke of Wentworth, has already rejected a score of suitors. With time running out, clearly a love match is out of the question. But desperation makes for odd unions . . .

After six years of war, Marcus Trevor, colonel of the Royal 10th Hussars, has had enough. He buys a hops farm in Kent and retires to the supposed peace and quiet of farming, taking his daughter and a number of his officers and men with him. Alas, the solid citizens of Kent look upon the newcomers not as heroes of the war against Bonaparte but as invaders little better than the French. To complicate matters further, the daughter of a duke needs to be rescued from the man her father insists she wed. What is a poor man to do when his new world refuses to be the peaceful sanctuary he'd hoped for?

 ~ * ~

For a link to The Lady Takes a Risk on Amazon's Kindle, click here.

For a link to The Lady Takes a Risk on Smashwords, click here. 

Grace note: a 20% free read is available on Smashwords. 

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.