Writing with Partners, chapters 10 and 11

In chapter 10, my writing partner had her character heat things up a bit with some flirtation.  Jake is trying, yet, she seemed to not be all that interested.  She doesn’t know what she wants?  So in any event, Jake has been talking to me, and here is what he said.

Chapter 11:

Jake’s eyes were wide open as he watched Delia walk away. He sat down for a moment and thought about the implications. She seemed interested, but perhaps not really. “Blowing hot and cold? I don’t get it. But she did say there were family matters that preoccupied her. Well, it’s up to her to decide what she wants.” He went downstairs to meet the captain.

Donovan glanced at Jake once he got inside the truck. He smirked as he spoke. “A few minutes, Alex?”

Jake looked at him with raised eyebrows. He knew the ribbing was coming.

“I’m not that old, Jake, that I don’t know when a guy is working it. You interested?”

“I could be.”

Alex began driving back to the station. “Seems like a nice young lady, a few years older than Janie.” Janie was Alex’s daughter. “Good food, at her diner. Let’s see what she comes up with for the menu.”

Jake nodded and changed the subject. “Is there anything else we need to work on regarding City Hall and so forth?” Earlier that day, there was a meeting at City Hall with the Commissioner and the supervisory staff–the captains and lieutenants at all the fire stations in the county. Commissioner Hart talked to them about the next steps in the budget process.

The initial matters had been taken care of at the station level, which Jake and Alex were quite familiar with. Once the departmental auditors accounted for each penny, the captains and lieutenants assessed their current budgets and then made forecasts for future needs. Fortunately, nothing horrible turned up in the audits. If there were problems, they would have been dealt with, because this was not the time to be dealing with waste and fraud. Contrary to bigger city departments, there weren’t many bureaucrats and people to staff no-show positions.

At the intermediate stage, the department’s union representatives met with the town officials to hear exactly what they were dealing with. Jake and Alex had taken care of that step the day they went with Pete to eat at the diner. That was when they heard the reality of what was likely to happen.

Alex spoke up. “Commissioner Hart thinks the next step will be the most crucial one, the public hearings where local members of the community will be able to hear about the budget and present their views.”

Jake shuddered. “Those meetings are always rough, because everyone comes out of the woodwork to talk about money, and from every part of the political spectrum.” Although the town was a quiet one, extra police were always on hand in case things got out of control. “That’s the thing, nobody wants to pay more in taxes, but everyone wants great services.”

“The one good thing we have going, Jake, is that the department is thought of highly in the community. It helps that we do a good job at PR. Like Commissioner Hart suggested, we should have as many men at the hearing, sitting in the audience. People need to see that we are here and a part of the community. I think the Commissioner will be the one to speak on behalf of the departments, but I think he will want a few captains and lieutenants there with him on the stage. ”

“Yes, I remember he said so.”

“I think you should be there. You are part of the group of younger guys in the department who are more in touch with the community.” He smirked, “I remember how the young women swarmed you at the softball game last year.” Even though the game was a friendly rivalry, it drew interest from lots of community members. That is why Commissioner Hart suggested the fundraiser.

“Ah, yes, my fans.” Jake rolled his eyes, as he recalled the young women from Collings, the local women’s college, who tried to get his attention.

“Make sure you contact their coordinator who can arrange for students to get credit for working at the game.”

“Carla Miller was her name.”

Once they got to the station, Alex reminded him of the dates for the hearing, one month away, and the game, three months away. Jake then entered the dates onto his calendar, so that he wouldn’t forget.

On a whim, Jake called Carla. “Hi, this is Jake Rogers calling for Ms. Carla Miller. I’m not sure whether you remember me from last year’s softball game?”

Jake smiled on hearing Carla’s pleasant voice. “Of course, I remember you! The fireman who had all my girls in a tizzy!”

He laughed out loud. “Hey, if it gets us support from Collings, I’ll be happy to be the guy.”

“So how can I help you? I’m guessing the game is coming up again soon.”

“Yes, it is, but things will be different. This year, there will be a fundraiser for the local hospital. Perhaps there will be opportunities for your girls to get credit for working at the event?”

“Fantastic. Should we meet and chat?”

“Sure, why don’t I stop by Collings soon?”

Carla checked her calendar. “How about Friday at 4:00? There is a coffee shop at the library where we can meet. Do you need directions?”

“No, I know exactly how to get to Collings, and I’m sure there are maps around to direct me to the library.”

Meeting up with Carla, Jake was taken aback. He hadn’t seen her for a while, but he didn’t remember her being as pretty. Studying her outfit, she looked slim, attractive, and well put together. He mused silently, “life must be good, being a young staff member at a nice women’s college.”

Their meeting went well. Carla was going to advertise the softball game as a fun community event, and depending upon how many hours the young women worked, they would earn a number of credits. “It will appeal to the students majoring in athletics, nonprofit management, communications, and food service. The possibilities are endless.”

Jake was glad. The young women volunteers might be able to do a lot of work prior to the game and on site. The town agencies didn’t have enough staff to do everything, so the young women were likely to gain experience as part of their coursework.

At the same time, he remembered Carla from last year, compared to the Carla he was chatting with now. Last year, she was pleasant but she seemed far more reserved, and even matronly. But now, she was different, but he couldn’t figure out what is was. In any event, he liked the Carla he was dealing with now.

Something occurred to him. “Was last year your first year on staff?”

She was surprised. “How did you know?”

“You seem different somehow.”

“Last year was my first year on the job, it was a transition. I had been living with my parents for a year, and had just moved back to Collings. It took a lot to adjust to being a staff member compared to being a student.”

Jake smiled in admiration. “It looks like you have been doing well.”

“I have been, thanks. This is my second year on staff. I graduated three years ago.”

She asked, “And how have things been this past year?”

“I have been fine, thanks, the usual job stuff, but that’s it. I’m looking forward to the game, it always is a fun event.”

Carla made eye contact. “You know, I always wondered what my girls were all flipping out about when they attended the game last year.”

Jake smirked. “I have no idea, but you are curious, you say?”

Carla smiled back and touched his hand. “I am.”

“You know, there is a book reading by this local author, part of the artists’ colony in the local community. Do you feel like going?”

“I’d be happy to. When does it take place?”

“Next Saturday night. Dinner beforehand?”

“That sounds great!”

Jake smiled all the way back to the fire station.

Meeting up with Carla, they had a great time talking about the ups and downs of their job. They each had jobs managing younger people, but Jake had more distance from the younger firemen. Carla, in turn, was not that much older, and she even knew some of the students when they were younger and Carla was a student as well. There was much to laugh at.

Walking over to the bookstore, Jake was glad that Carla seemed to enjoy his company. She was easygoing and looked very nice, even more put together than when they had met at Collings. Taking their seats, they listened to the talk. During the break period, they walked around for a bit. Jake liked that Carla was probably among the most attractive young women at the venue.

Laughing at something Carla said to him, he grabbed her hand and they made their way back to their seats once the break period ended.

Looking up, he saw Delia with her friend, Joan. Making eye contact, he smiled.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.

A quote from my blog tour interview:

I recently spent time updating my Goodreads page to include the names of authors whose works inspire me, and as I thought about it, the characters in the books I like all share certain traits in common.
The heroes of the novels were highly competent men in the world of work. They had great families and friends. They were experienced with women. Everything was great, but something was missing.  They were adrift in that their relationships with women didn’t fulfill them emotionally.  It was something they were actually aware of, or something acted as a catalyst that brought them face to face with their reality.  I especially liked when the heroes were introspective enough to realize that they needed to do something about their lives.
Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.
authorbarbara james at gmail.com


On dialogue…

The New York Times has a column called the Metropolitan Diary, brief essays on random happenings. Here is one I saw the other day which I found to be so interesting. From a writer’s perspective, the implications are clear.  How would you phrase the dialogue, if this is what you were dealing with?
It is called “You Don’t Call Me.” He overheard two people calling, and one repeated the phrase, “you don’t call me.”
In addition, he heard, “I’m 51 years old. You don’t call me.”
So what did it mean? He didn’t hear the full conversation.
What if the speaker said “I’m 81 years old? Would we interpret it differently?
What if the speaker said, “You, don’t call me!”
It seems to me that changing the age of the person speaking might make the message different. Is it a message of exasperation that there are no phone calls at all, or that there are text messages and emails instead of phone calls?
Punctuation might change it from a complaint to a warning not to call.
Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.
authorbarbarajames at gmail.com

Writing with Partners: Chapters 8 and 9

My writing partner posted her chapter.  It was on the follow up to the break in, investigations on the break in and subsequent vandalism at the diner.  Jake organizes a crew of firemen to help clean up.  Before they leave, he puts it out there that he wants to go out with her some time, but she is preoccupied.

Chapter 9:

Jake was practically kicking himself as he walked to his car.  “My timing sucks big time.  Why do I do this?  Either it falls flat because I seem overbearing, or it falls flat because she is preoccupied!”

Glancing back at the diner before he began driving back to the station house, he was pleased, though, that notwithstanding his bad timing, he had planted the seeds for Delia to realize that he was interested.

Arriving at the station, he saw that a few of the men who had been at the diner helping out were sitting in a conference room.  Alex Donovan, the fire captain, was there too.

“Hey, Jake, come on in!”

“Hi, Alex, how is it going?”

“Doing fine, I hear there was an adventure at that diner we went to.”

“Yeah, vandals, most likely some young kids.”

Alex just shook his head.  “But the good thing is that you got us some good publicity, having a number of the firefighters show up.  I got a call from the local newspaper.  You did good.  This will definitely help in terms of the budget stuff, showing the community just how great the department is.  We step in to help in times of crisis, and not just for fires.”

“It didn’t occur to me, it was just that local businesses like these need the support, they are the backbone of the community, enabling it to flourish.  People come in from all over to eat there.”

Cole Bristow, one of the young firefighters spoke up.  “I’m not surprised.  Great food, haven’t eaten that well in a while.”

Jake laughed.  “Just make sure you go there more often; tell the other guys too.  With this type of loss, it is a matter of supporting them so that they can regroup.”

Going up to his office, Jake sat and began drafting his report.  Glancing at his notes, he thought about all he learned.  “Vandalism, no evidence of a break in, a security system that wasn’t all that secure.  All sorts of people could have access.  Tripping a fire alarm.  Likely someone with inside knowledge.”

Suddenly, the phone rang.  It was the receptionist.  “Hi, Jake, I have Officer Gabe Nagin from the police department here with Ms. Delia Saunders.”

Jake thought that was curious.  “Perhaps there are some new developments they wanted to share?”

Gabe walked in with Delia.  “Hey, Jake, I thought you might want to hear this.  Ms. Saunders just came by.  Our department will continue the investigation because we have more information now.  So you should just close up your report with these latest developments.”

“I didn’t think there was more to be done on our end, since there wasn’t an actual fire, and it was likely just vandalism.”

“Good, good, that is good to hear, it is important to make sure we don’t interfere with each other’s work.”  He glanced at Delia.  “Ms. Saunders has some incriminating information, evidence of who was involved.”

Jake glanced at Delia.  “Well that is good news, helpful in going ahead.”

Delia nodded, “Yes, I found a cell phone under one of the tables.  I was able to get in.  Once I saw what was on it, I brought it directly to Officer Nagin.”

Jake shook her hand. “Well, I hope it all goes well.”

Looking at Officer Nagin, Jake asked, “Hey, Gabe, you will be on the Police Department team for the annual softball game against our department?”

“I won’t miss it for anything!”

“Exactly, for your latest whipping!”

The two departments had a friendly rivalry that went back for a few years, an annual softball game that brought together members of the department and their families.  But this year, the Commissioner for Public Safety, who supervised both departments, suggested that it could be part of a fundraiser for the local hospital.  His communications director drafted a great press release that wound up in the local newspaper.  Jake thought it was a good strategy, useful once again in light of the budget cuts.

Gabe shook his head and walked out the door.

Jake turned to Delia.  “If you like, I can get you a ticket.”

“Actually, I was thinking more along the lines, that if I were to attend, it would be great if I could get the catering business.”

He smiled at her.  “Always the business woman, I see.  I can put you in contact with the captain.  He was at the diner with me.  He might have some ideas.”


Jake walked Delia to the door and patted her hand.  “You’re welcome, take care.  This can’t be an easy time for you.”

She nodded with a bit of sadness, and he watched as she walked down the stairs.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.

authorbarbarajames at gmail.com


The Pinterest board for Starting Over: Rick is now up and available for you to look at!

In an earlier post, I mentioned that as I was writing, I searched the web for inspiration, because imagery to me is important for envisioning a scene.

Feel free to review them as you read the book!

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.  authorbarbarajames at gmail.com.


Lessons from the Writing Process

When the book came out almost two weeks ago, I mentioned that I would post some observations about the writing process.

Feel free to get a copy if you haven’t already–I’m so proud.  It looks great in both digital and print form:  link.

Right now, I’m taking a rest from writing.  I have been reviewing a few books on Goodreads, and I can’t stress enough, the importance of having an editor and a proofreader.

I read a novel translated into English, and I noticed some glaring problems, and not just in copy editing and proof reading.

Some examples include problems in diction and the use of idiom.  The author phrased certain things in a way that sounded odd to a native English speaker.  In addition she used a few American cultural references that made no sense.  For example, in American English, saying one “pleads the first” means that the speaker reserves the right to be silent.  She used “plead the third,” which doesn’t exist.

Returning to my publishing adventures, I was struck at how easy it was to upload to Amazon both the e-book and print versions.  Nonetheless, it took a lot of going back and forth, to get everything just right.

  1. One early mistake:  not remembering that the page length for a typical 8 1/2 x 11 manuscript will be different from the page length for a print book.  I requested a cover for the 8 1/2 x 11 manuscript length, when in reality, the book size was going to be 5 x 8 and with a different manuscript length as a result.  There were no problems with the digital cover.
  2. Templates were more trouble than they were worth in trying to convert the manuscript to book size.
  3. It is important to do an inspection of the final document to make sure that all the editorial comments were removed.  I almost fainted when I saw them in my early uploads.
  4. Make sure the page breaks are where they should be, to avoid the problem of sections running into each other.

Best of wishes in your writing and publishing adventures!

Copyright Barbara James, all rights reserved.

authorbarbarajames at gmail.com


Writing with Partners: Challenges

  • In any event, my writing partner and I were at a standstill for a bit.  I wrote my chapter, but she was confused that I seemed to change her character’s personality and develop a new story line from her character’s perspective.  If anything, her character seemed a bit confusing, and I was working through it.

    This indicates some of the challenges in our approach to writing.  Some people have a strict outline, while my approach is more laid back.  That had always been the strategy I took to my own writing.  Even though I might start with an outline, it is very general and leaves room open for new developments.

    But here, we needed a middle ground.  I decided I would edit the old chapter and then we would each write our own chapters, but conferring with the other first about what we were planning to do.  She thinks this can work.  She likes what I have done.

    Chapter 7

    Jake was sitting in his office. He ran his hands through his hair and stroked his jaws where the stubble was coming up. The last few weeks really put him through the ringer. Not only were there lots of fires and so his men were working overtime, but the budgetary matters were stressing him out, causing him to work overtime as well. The town council was going to vote soon on the budget, and he had to be sure his numbers were on point.

    At the same time, the anxiety level at the station was high. Gathering up his papers, he had needed a quiet place to think and work.

    Somehow, he wound up over at the diner. Delia was gracious, he had to admit, and let him sit in the back to work. The food was good, as usual, and she gave him some extras, which he appreciated. After he was done, he left not only money for the food, but an extra trip in thanks.

    Taking a break, he worked on some other projects that went easier on his mind, the scheduling of shifts at the station. He opened up his email and looked through a folder on his desk. Whenever he got a request for scheduling he put everything away until he had the chance to work on it.

    “Nothing too bad,” he thought. There wasn’t a rush of requests for extra time off or for rescheduling. The new policy helped, of requiring annual requests for vacation to be put in early, and of encouraging the members to work among themselves to handle the small glitches.

    He was glad when a call came in from the receptionist. “Jake, a lady here by the name of Delia is on the line. Will you take the call?”

    Jake thought, “I’ll actually do better and go down to see her. Get me out of this chair.”

    Arriving downstairs, he nodded to the receptionist and greeted Delia.

    She took out a flash drive. “Hi, I think you forgot this at the diner.”

    Jake grinned at her. “Well look at that! With all the craziness around here, I didn’t even know I dropped it somewhere. You saved me a trip. So I’m glad you brought it by.”

    Delia nodded. “I thought it was important, you seemed so busy.”

    Jake replied. “Yes, I was. So are we squared away now?”

    Delia smirked. “We could be.”

    Jake just shook his head as he watched her walk away.

    The next morning, the station got an emergency call, the fire alarm at the diner went off. A crew went over, and Jake drove over in one of the station’s vehicles. He usually didn’t do that, but there was a special call, since the original report was for a break-in. So both the police and the fire department were called in, and Jake’s job was investigative.

    Arriving at the diner, Jake saw Gabe Nagin, one of the officers from the police department, who apprised him of what occurred.

    “This is a false alarm thing, we’re guessing some kids got into the place, looking for whatever, did whatever they were doing, some vandalism. They wound up tripping the fire alarm.”

    Jake watched as Delia approached. He saw that she looked worried.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.

Starting Over: Rick: “Art imitates life and life imitates art?”

Another iteration?

In the novel, Annelise is looking for young women’s groups on campus.  She is interested in the New Women’s Initiative, a conservative group inspired by the Independent Women’s Forum I was familiar with about ten years ago.

I just read an interesting article about a young liberal feminist who goes to a conference sponsored by a conservative college women’s group, the Network of Enlightened Women.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.