Art imitates life,once again!

The New York Times published an opinion piece on age differences in relationships.

Guys in their early 20s date women of similar ages. Once guys hit around age 28 through 36, they all want 20 year olds.

A nine to ten year difference doesn’t seem unusual to me, because they are of similar generations.

The hero of Starting Over:  Rick is 28.  The heroine, Annelise, is 18.

The importance of writing groups….

As I think about my Writing with Partners group, I think about how it is helping me.  Traditional writers’ groups are often those that meet so that writers can read drafts of each others’ work, a work in progress, as an example.

Writing with Partners is different for me, in that I am practicing writing, and for an audience who comments as my writing partner and I submit our chapters.  These are not for publication, but are for practice.

I’m learning what works, and I am learning how to improve my writing.  As I edit the first draft of Denise and Roger’s story (introduced at the close of Starting Over:  Rick), I am remembering those lessons, and some of the comments from my editor, and even those of an acquisitions’ editor who spoke at our local Romance Writers’ Chapter meeting a few weeks ago.

So we should be done soon with our Jake and Delia project, called Fire and Desire.  I’ve signed up for a new project, writing as part of a cell, a group of at least four of us, who will write our own chapters as part of a group project.  The characters are in one space, and are having different experiences.  They are interacting with each other’s characters.

I spent a good bit of time imagining my characters.  They seemed to flow easier, now that I have more experience with character development.

A very nice, fun, and creative place to be.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.

Why we need more sweet romances?

In my interview on Saturday, I talked about what sweet romances meant to me, the importance of seeing characters work through dating relationships leading to commitment and marriage.

The New York Times just published an essay:  How Did Marriage Become a Mark of Privilege?

The author of the piece explains that although marriage was previously common among Americans of all economic backgrounds, it is now most common among middle and upper class adults, and especially among those with college degrees.

Cultural and economic forces are blamed.

The main characters in Starting Over: Rick are college students who met during orientation.

Being Interviewed…Writing with Partners, and other Stuff….

So I am being interviewed tomorrow.  I drafted my answers to the questions the host gave me.  I am editing the first draft of Denise and Roger’s book.  In addition, I’m working on my Writing with Partners project.  Our story has a title I suggested, Fire and Desire.  In chapter 16, my partner and I were thinking about how to get them together, since they are starting to consider other people to date.  A fundraiser will bring them together.  This is my chapter.

Chapter 17:

Jake was organizing notepads and folders in the Fire Department’s conference room when he saw Alex Donovan walk by.

“Hey, Alex, got a minute?”

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“Delia Saunders is coming by at 4:00pm to talk about the fundraiser.”

“That’s great, Ms. Saunders has been a real asset to the community. So it’s good you’re working with her.” Alex smirked. “Weren’t you interested at some point in time?”

Jake laughed. “I’m always interested in attractive women!”

Alex shook his head. “But the rumor I heard is that Carla Miller is the one taking up your time nowadays.”

Jake grew a bit pensive for a moment. “Yes, she is. We have been seeing each other for a few months now. I can see us getting serious.” Suddenly, he came back to the project at hand. “What ideas do you have in mind?”

“Like I was saying when I gave you that list of people to invite, something to attract the high level bigwigs in town. The softball game was a fun family filled event. This is something that will do even more, get the folks who are the movers and shakers. It wouldn’t hurt to get to know them.”

Jake grabbed a notepad and took out a pen to jot down some ideas. “How about this, Alex? Black tie. We use the Union Hall ballroom, no cost there, have a buffet style dinner with some dancing?” He looked at one of his folders. “Who is that guy we had dj for the Christmas party?”

Alex rubbed his face. “I remember him, a guy from one of the local colleges. We can sell tickets at a good price, get money for the fundraiser and money for Ms. Saunders’ catering?”

“That can work. Get out the guys from the department. We can all wear our formal uniforms. The guys with teenage kids can get them to help out at the event. At each table, have one or two of the guys talk about the department, the work we are doing, where the money is going.”

Alex headed out towards the door. “Good ideas, Jake. Let me know how it goes and if we can use other staff here, like the Communications people.”

“Thanks, will do.”

Delia walked into the Fire Department lobby and spoke to the receptionist, who replied. “Jake is expecting you.”

After she sat down, she saw Alex. “Hi, Ms. Saunders, I just spoke to Jake. Thanks for helping out with this. We really appreciate this. ” He glanced over at the receptionist. “I’ll take her up to the conference room.”

Delia spoke up. “Thanks, I appreciate it, Mr. Donovan.”

Jake got up once Alex showed Delia into the room. He shook her hand. “It has been a while, Ms. Saunders, good to see you, I appreciate your helping the department, and I’m glad to work on coordinating at this end.”

“Quite glad to get business and get the diner’s name out in the community.”

Jake explained the ideas he and Alex came up with. Delia had some ideas of her own. “I didn’t realize that you were thinking about this kind of an event, a black tie evening thing. Not many of those around here, it is not as though we are the big city. But it can work, although we typically cater for mostly luncheons and breakfast events, at the diner, or off site. Who knows, this can be the start of a new type of business for me!”

She took out a folder of her own and took one of the notepads Jake set out. She winked at Jake. “Black tie will mean fancier meals, more expensive, and a greater profit margin, both for me and for the department. So I’m guessing you want the big wigs.”

Jake rubbed his hands and raised his eyebrows as he joked. “Yes, indeed, big wigs means big money!” He took out a spread sheet from one of his folders. “Here is a list of about 50-100 people we are likely to invite. With guests, we’re talking 100-200.”

Delia glanced at the list and raised her eyebrows as well. She noticed there were prominent members of the community on the list: government officials, high profile business owners, and directors of some of the major non-profits, like the hospital. “You really want to reach the heavy hitters!”

“This fundraiser is for heavy duty work for the department, retrofitting these military vehicles.”

She laid out a plan and pulled out a menu. “A menu like this one here would cost $25.00 per plate. Sell tickets for at least $100 each, and you will have more than enough money to work with.”

After they finished planning, Jake was pleased. It was good they were able to work together well. But he always wondered about something. They had been interested in dating, but why didn’t things get off the ground?

Jake glanced at his watch. It was 5pm. “Delia, do you feel like going out for a drink?”

Copyright Barbara James, all rights reserved.

authorbarbarajames at

Writing with Partners. And the round goes to?

So my writing partner put up her chapter a few days ago.  In her chapter, Delia got a makeover before she went to the softball game.  While she was there, she got acquainted with a police officer who seemed interested.  Here is my chapter.

Chapter 15:

When Jake picked up Carla from her apartment at the Collings campus, he liked what he saw.  She was wearing a pink and blue t-shirt, and a short blue skirt that showed off her slim figure and fantastic legs.  She was wearing pink sandals and carried a matching purse.   She looked carefree, feminine, and happy.   Her makeup was on point, and her hair hung loose.

Jake forgot there was something he meant to ask her.  “When I invited you, I couldn’t recall asking you whether you expected to have any specific duties regarding the programming for the students.”

“I have none at all.  My job was limited to setting up the programming.  It is up to the students and their academic departments to work on the specific details regarding their work and the academic credit.  We have about ten girls participating.  I couldn’t manage all of that!”

“I’m glad to hear.  So you will be able to enjoy the game without worry!”

Bringing Carla over to sit with Sue and Ben, he introduced her and hovered for a bit, wanting to make sure they got off on the right foot.

Sue realized he was lingering, and that he would need to begin playing soon.  She urged him, “Jake, we will be fine here, you can go along!”

He shook his head and asked, “So Sis, do I get a hug for good luck?”

She laughed, “Of course, Brother.”

Jake smiled at Carla on his way out.

Sue looked at Carla.  “Come sit, we have plenty of room.”

Carla sat and brought out bottles of sunscreen and bug spray.  “I’m not sure whether anybody brought any, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared.”

Ben was impressed.  “This is great.  I’m sure little Toby needs some of each.”

Carla passed him the bottles.  As she did so, Sue began speaking.  “So Jake tells me you are at Collings?”

“Yes, I’m on staff there, I graduated a few years ago.”

“Are you from the area?

“Yes.”  She explained that she grew up in one of the neighboring counties.  “My family owns Miller’s Contracting.”

Ben had heard of them, since he was an electrician.  “They do good work, great general contractors.”

“I’m glad to hear.  My grandfather started the business.  My dad and uncles run it.  My brothers work there as well.  If they didn’t do good work, Granddad would come back from the grave and haunt them!”

After Jake left, he went to meet the members of the Fire Department team who were warming up.  Glancing at his watch, he saw he had a few minutes.  He went to get some drinks for Sue, Ben, Toby, and Carla.

While he was on his way to the Boy Scouts station to get the drinks, he ran into Delia.  She was talking to one of the Police Officers.  They made eye contact.  “Oh, hi, nice to see you.  I was looking for someone…”

Walking away quickly, Jake thought about how awkward that was.  He liked Delia, thought she was attractive, but the timing was wrong, in her view.  But his timing was just right where Carla was concerned, and he liked her a lot.  Yet, it seemed the timing was right for the police officer who kissed her hand.

Coincidentally, he was up against the police officer guy.  He walked over to Alex.  “Who is he?”

“Delgado.  He seems good.”

Jake recalled his years playing baseball in high school when he led his team to several championships.  He grinned, “But I wonder whether he is good enough to stand up to me?”

After he delivered the drinks, he proceeded to the field.  His good arm from baseball back in the day never let him down.  The whole fire department team cheered when Jake struck him out.

On his way back to the dugout, Jake saw Delia.  He gave her a wink.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.

Time and Place in Novel Writing

The New York City Chapter of the Romance Writers Association just published my essay:

What does time and place mean to me?

By Barbara James


Our ststarting_over_frontories are universal in that they address our need for human connection.  Time and place, I believe, contextualize our stories in ways that help us reach our readers who find the time and place of our novels appealing.  But time and place is also about the author, who writes about the times and periods which interest them the most, whether because they have lived it, or they have fantasized about it.  Perhaps time and place is about creating an alternative reality where no one lives but where the human condition matters as well.

Although I read genres from a myriad of times and places, from the historical to the contemporary, I write exclusively in the contemporary, because I am interested in the human condition as experienced by people in the world of today.

Yet, at the same time, I’m aware of the ways in which I am influenced by my “time and place.”  I was born and raised in New York City, but I have also spent a lot of time in college towns working among young adults.  These are the environments I am most familiar with, and so my writing from the contexts of those times and places, seem in my view, more authentic as the time and place can then become its own character in a story.

How can a time and place become its own character?  It is about creating a world, the backdrop for the story and the action.  The places are fictionalized, but the props come out of a deep understanding of the social environments that ground the community of students, faculty, and staff on a college campus in a university town.

Our characters are not cardboard people.  They are meant to be presented as unique individuals with their own histories, needs, and interests.  These are expressed not just through the people they know, but in the ways they interact with the spaces that ground their characters.  Times and places provide the context for characters and their experiences.

Barbara James lives in Brooklyn, New York. She writes romances full of sweetness and heat.  Her first novel, Starting Over:  Rick, is available on Amazon.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.

Writing with Partners, drama!

My writing partner just put up her chapter.  Delia and her friend Joan saw Jake with his date.  Joan loses it and accosts him.

This is an interesting strategy in writing romance novels, the tension between partners and the potential for triangles.  I used a similar strategy in the current manuscript I’m working on, the sequel to Starting Over:  Rick.  Denise was present during a scene when Roger ran into one of his old friends with benefits.  There was a similar dynamic here.

Chapter 13:

Jake was beyond taken aback at Joan’s performance.  But suddenly he felt a surge of rage.  There he was, minding his business, when this harridan came out of nowhere.

Staring into her eyes, he refused to back down.  “You are too ignorant for words.  You have no idea what you’re talking about.  He looked her up and down.  Noticing her wedding rings, he observed, “Your husband let you off your leash?  You need to get out of my face, because you have nothing to say to me!”

He shook his head as he watched Delia drag Joan away.  Carla glanced at him in confusion, and he could tell she was wondering what happened.  He squeezed her hand.  “Not now.  During the reception?  I’ll explain.”

Jake’s mood calmed down by the time the program ended.  He and Carla listened to the questions during the session afterwards.  Jake decided to buy a copy of the book, a history of the local region as a farming community dating back to the earliest settlers and as an artists’ colony in more recent times.  In the current day, adherents of organic food enjoyed visiting the local farms.  It brought a lot of tourism to the area.  Jake didn’t know all the things the writer explained about the community, and he grew up in the area!

They walked to the reception area where a bartender had drinks available.  He needed  something after what he just went through.  He was surprised that Carla merely asked for a glass of soda.  At the same time, he didn’t know how to begin, but he decided to just start talking.

“You’re probably wondering what happened earlier.”

“Yes, she made you sound like the biggest jerk out there.  It wasn’t a good look.”

“I know.”  Jake put it all out there, how he knew Delia, his interest in her, the story about the ticket, her annoyance with him, his asking her out, but her perception that his timing was off.

Carla sought to understand.  “So you apologized for the ticket thing, paid for it, and never actually dated her, even though you asked her out?  She was never your girlfriend?”


“And the woman who accosted you is her friend?”


Carla was pensive.  “You know, it sounds not only like she and her friend have a crazy misperception of you, but I think there is something else going on.”

Jake was floored at her explanation, because it is one he had never thought of.  “It seems as though they think you should act like a guy who has no options.”

“How do you mean?”

“There are women who are really unreasonable, and who believe that if a guy is interested, he should pine for them and do whatever it takes, wait however long it takes, just to be with them, and put his life on hold, as though he has no choice.  They might not mean it that way, but it always seemed based in arrogance and lack of respect for men.”

Jake nodded.  He liked Carla’s insights.  She seemed really level headed and grounded, a far cry from the drama queen that Tracey was.  He walked her out to her car.  She reached up to give him a kiss on the cheek.  “I hope that didn’t ruin your day!  I had fun, nonetheless!”

He smiled, “Nope, it was just a blip.  I’m glad you enjoyed yourself.”

She squeezed his hand.  “Good to hear.  If you like, I wouldn’t mind going out again.  Here, take my cell number and email address.”

Jake glanced at her with speculation.  “I like that.”

Driving home, Jake thought about everything that happened and thought this was a good time to call Sue.

Getting inside, he glanced at the clock.  She was likely to be home.  Ben, Sue’s husband, answered.  “Hey, guy, how is it going?”

“Doing fine, just calling Sue to say hi.”

Ben joked.  “No problem, Baby Brother, I’ll put her on.”

“Hey, Jake, what’s up?”


“Let me see, women problems?  What else is new?”

“You got me.”  Jake explained what happened.

“Joan, I might know her.”  She asked Jake to describe her.

“Oh my goodness, I know exactly who she is!  She was a cheerleader back in high school.  The biggest drama queen going.  It seems that every week she was in the midst of some drama, starting a fight with someone, or encouraging someone else to get into some kind of confusion.  She married Diego, that football player.  You called her out, good for you!”

Jake explained Carla’s observations.

“Wow.  How old is she?”

“About twenty five.”

“She sounds a lot older.”

“I know.  When I met her last year, she seemed like a young matron, quiet, very serious minded.”

Sue laughed.  “I take it she is appealing on some level.”

“Oh she is, she is.”

Sue had her own insights to share.  “Perhaps they thought Carla was your girlfriend and that you were being a cad in asking Delia out.”

“How so?  It wasn’t as though I had been seeing her on a regular basis and treated her as a side piece!  I last saw her a few weeks ago.”

“Jake, don’t expect women to be logical.  This is pure emotion.  You were thinking, well, I asked her out, she thinks it would be too much now, time to move on.  You didn’t do anything wrong, and you have nothing to apologize for.”

“That is good to hear.”

“The old Jake, put through the ringer by Tracey, would have apologized.  It is good to see you are getting your self confidence back.”

“The funny thing is that I never even intended to ask Carla out.  I contacted her regarding the softball game, and she was the one who expressed interest.”

“Yes, that is how women like that play to win, especially if she is as logical and level-headed as you describe.  They don’t miss an opportunity when they know a guy is a good catch.  Think of it.  It wasn’t as though you were asking Delia to move in with you.  You offered a mere date, a moment of fun diversion in what must have been a difficult time, or if you got to know each other better, extra support when she needed it.  She could have been the one there with you at the event.”

“That was exactly what I was thinking, I was just interested in getting to know her better and helping where I could.  But in any event, Carla gave me her cell number and her email.”

“Sounds good, I’m sure you will keep me posted.”

“I will.”

Once he got off the phone, he sent a note to Carla, inviting her to the softball game.  He mentioned that there was an area reserved for families, friends, and dates, and that she was going to meet his sister, who was going to attend with her husband and young son.

Carla replied that she was looking forward to seeing him.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.