August is here!

A staycation?

Does August feel like an odd month for you? It takes place in summer but there are no days to commemorate.

June has the first day of summer. July has the fourth, and September has Labor Day and the first day of fall, signaling summer’s end.

University and college students often move onto their college campuses during the course of the month while other folks tend to take vacations.

Anabel Taylor Hall, Cornell University

So what’s the writing life like? One critique group got the last of the submissions from the current draft of the work in progress, while the other group might be one or two submissions behind.

What should I do? Resubmit some older chapters I reworked? I don’t think I’m ready yet to work on the next work in progress, because it has felt stuck to me since earlier in the spring.

The irony is that in romance, high conflict is good!

That’s something I hope to work on soon.

The whole notion of high conflict in romance drew my attention to this book.

I asked my local library to get Brenda Jackson’s book. I was surprised when it came in, I’d forgotten it.

It’s on my Overdrive now!

Here’s Toni Shiloh’s forthcoming book:

This looks interesting!

Have a great month!

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

It’s July!

Here’s to a great Fourth of July celebration!

So what’s been on my mind lately with respect to the writing life?

Juggling acts.

How did it happen that I’m juggling three different submissions for my two different critique groups?

I think it’s a scheduling issue, and I might as well be directing traffic at an intersection.

One critique group is ahead of the other. This group has more people, and they are my most challenging critics. They will roast me, but I know for sure, that they are forcing me to think and re-think my storytelling.

When I get myself up off the ground from my walloping, I make the revisions to the first submission and then show the second group the stronger draft.

I then revise the second submission for the first group. It’s a fresh submission based upon the revisions from the first submission. Once the second group sees that second submission, I can then go forward with the third submission for the first group.

It looks like this: sixth submission, seventh submission, eight submission. And these are submissions based upon the rewrite I did after last year. I just wasn’t happy with my first draft and all the revisions I did, so this is my second draft that I’m revising with the groups.

Confusing? Complicated? Well, that’s what the writers’ journey is like.

Happy writing!

What books am I reading now?

These are Toni Shiloh’s latest:

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

It’s June, summer is coming!

How was May? My latest writing adventures?

My recent revisions felt daunting when I first glanced at my critique partners’ comments. Was it that we seemed to be meeting earlier than I’d anticipated and I never imagined I’d ever get the work done? Was it that I’d been distracted by some recent projects around the house?

Well, I finally got myself together and did the work.

It’s a fantastic feeling when I have a story line developed in the work in progress and my critique partners make a suggestion that can take the story in a whole other direction.

They haven’t seen the subsequent chapters yet, but this new direction is one I can work on over the next few days or so to get the revision on point for when they read it in a week or so.

I made the revisions on the current submission earlier than I anticipated, because I was eager not only to have them done before the next submission is due, but because I’m hoping to get input from the other critique group I’m a member of.

As for the other revision project that’s stalled, I have to think about some strategies.

So that gives you a sense of how my June will go.

Books I’ve been reading:

This book wasn’t what I thought it would be. It was for people who haven’t exercised at all and who were interested in starting. I liked reading about the studies, though.

I’ve never been persuaded by the “dream hoarders” language I’d been seeing in many discussion of social and public policy lately. I read the book that came out a few years ago that was instrumental in shaping this new way of looking at middle class people. I’m still not persuaded.

I think I need to read more romances.

Have a great month!

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

We’re in May!

Isn’t it exciting that we’re entering the middle of spring? Memorial Day is coming up in a few weeks, and for many people, that’s the unofficial beginning of the summer.

Since Easter Sunday was only a few weeks ago, here’s a picture of the specialty cake I bought that lasted the whole first week of the season. I’m not so daring as to have more cakes to persist until Pentecost, but I’ll survive. Smile.

How’s the writing? Well on that front, I’m persisting with the manuscript that I’ve been working on with my critique groups. That’s been going well.

As for the work in progress I wrote last summer into the fall and which I began revising in March, I’ve hit a road block. Something doesn’t seem right.Perhaps I need to change the whole story line, or I need to change what’s going on in the midpoint, but the revisions aren’t getting any easier, so it’ s time to sit this one out. I’ve been reading in the meantime, some of the books I mentioned before.

What else? Sanditon season two had me enthralled. I wasn’t posting about writing, but I was posting about the show. Georgiana is my favorite character. I read there will be a season three. Bring it on, I say, with many more seasons to follow, 4, 5, …

As for the reading front, check out the books I’ve been looking at lately. There aren’t too many romances. Here’s one by someone who used to be in my chapter. Perhaps a book on women and care giving and one on creating community? I’ve been spring cleaning, so I’m including books that fit into that theme. The last one is useful for making the argument that sweet and inspirational romances are excellent reads.

Have a great month!

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

April is here!

Do people still do April Fool’s Day?

Lent is coming to a close soon enough. Holy Week will be here in about two weeks, which means Easter is on its way.

Where on earth has the time gone to?

I’m enjoying the warmer days and longer days of more daylight!

I’m deep into my revisions of the current work in progress. I’ve made a goal of two chapters per week since some chapters require some heavy duty rewriting. So far I’m on target, thankfully, so that means I have to push through even though I know I’ll have plenty of distractions this week.

What it also means is that I’m not reading at all. Well, I read for my critique groups, but reading the novels and books I’ve bought and which have just been sitting there?

Not happening, it’s just a low priority in the midst of all my other responsibilities. I’ll get back to them later.

In the meantime, these are some new books I just learned about. Will I read them? I hope I will someday, eventually.

Continuing with the foodie theme, how are these for some desserts? These are cheesecakes–Irish cream and mint chocolate chip, from the Nuns of New Skete.

Have a great month!

Copyright Barbara James, all rights reserved.

March is here!

With March’s arrival, spring is right around the corner. How about this for a commemoration? Shamrocks and butterflies, cookie cutters to mark two noteworthy dates in March.

As for the rolls and croissants, DH finds that 1/4 cup of yeast is too much, the taste of the yeast is too strong. I’ve hit upon a better measurement: 1/8 of a cup. He doesn’t want as much croissants and pretzels, though. So I’m making more whole grain rolls and scones.

What else is happening? A writer friend introduced us on Facebook to a company that sells gourmet items that we can order by mail. Was I on this or was I on this? I ordered a specialty cake that’s been truly delicious. I permitted myself merely a sliver at a time, just so that I could savor it.

What’s happening in the writer’s life? Well, I’ve been preparing submissions for my critique groups. I then took several weeks off. I was reading, mostly romances and craft books.

It’s time now to revise the next work in progress so that I’ll be ready to get into critique group mode once I’m done with the current manuscript.

Otherwise? My alter ego, the stay at home wife with the heart of an accountant chief financial officer, has been in full gear. Our taxes have been prepared, and we’ve paid this year’s estimated taxes to the feds and the first installment to our state.

Take a look at this chart. This is where our federal tax dollars go:

Now, turning to my state. This is from their website:

During 2020-2021, the tax department collected $80.4 billion from state-imposed taxes and fees as follows:

  • personal income tax—$54.9 billion
  • state sales tax plus excise and user taxes—$15.3 billion
  • business taxes—$7.5 billion
  • property transfer taxes—$2.5 billion
  • other taxes and fees—$0.2 billion

How about my local government? Almost half of its income (48%) comes from property taxes. The local tax department website explained that the state collects sales taxes, beer and liquor taxes, and motor vehicle registration taxes. They also administer the municipal income tax.

Individual tax payers can do their best to minimize their income taxes on the federal and state level. But no one can escape the property taxes they owe.

Then, I got a package in the mail. It’s time to restate my writer’s retirement account.

Huh? I was reeling. Deciding it had been a long day, I took a nap, woke up, then got to work.

I read the forms they sent and looked up the unfamiliar legal terms. Yes, the deadline is in June or July, but I’m an INTJ type. This isn’t the time to procrastinate. I filled out the forms so that I could send them out as soon as possible.

What else is new? Well, one or two of the romance novels I’d been waiting for finally became available, so I purchased them with the Christmas gift money I had.

It’s true, I held onto the money for all these weeks! Then I saw that a craft book I heard of some time ago was available for borrowing and downloading from my local library. I never bought it, so I borrowed it and spent a week reading.

Have a great month!

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

Here are all the books:

Welcome, February!

In honor of DH’s birthday this week and Valentine’s Day this month, I baked cookies and the latest batch of pretzels that he likes. The recipe said use two 1/4 ounce packages of yeast, but that just didn’t seem like enough. Now that I’m buying two pound packages and reaching for the 1/4 cup measure, this was the result, very soft and even puffier pretzels!

I bought a special container just for the yeast

This was an interesting month for a food ministry experiment. We had a package of peas no one wanted to eat, so I decided to donate them to a Tiny Purple Pantry on the grounds of a church where I served a few years ago. Then it occurred to me, why not buy more food and donate the items as well? I went shopping and spent about $20: vegetable oil, seasoning, a package of tea, sugar, flour, yeast, baking powder, a can of milk and cans of carrots. The chocolate bag was for carrying everything. Smile. Within half an hour of dropping off the food, everything was gone except for the can of milk. Either people are very hungry, or they know people who are, and so they pass on the items they find.

This is all I donated
This is what the pantry looked like

I was talking to a family friend about the croissants recipe I had that came from a 1980s calendar. I figured I was a weird kid, saving something like that all these years.

She asked me an interesting question. Was my mom like that? Not at all, but who in my family was? My mom’s  younger sister was. I remember she had this avocado colored recipe box full of pictures that I found fascinating. When we’d go to her house to visit, I’d take it down from the shelf and look through it, imagining having the skills to make all the things I saw. I would have been a pre-teen by then.

At last, the mystery was solved. Thus, I have an explanation not only for why I saved that recipe, but for all the ones I saved over the years, and the two accordion folders I have of recipes now.

As for the writing life, I finally finished the latest re-write of the entire draft I finished presenting to my critique groups in December. I wrote the first draft in three. It took two months to rewrite the entire thing using recycled materials from the first edits after I submitted to my critique groups and the new material I wrote. I was hoping to finish in a month, but that just didn’t happen. At least I had a goal, right?

But I’m not done yet. Next, I’m reviewing the re-writes, and will likely do even more of them before I submit to the groups. My goal is to review twenty pages–two chapters–each day.

At some point, I will tackle a re-write of the first draft of another work in progress I finished this past fall.

Here are some books I’m interested in reading. Not much romances nowadays, similar to previous months. The inspirational romances I want to read aren’t out yet. Oh well.

Have a great month!

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

An interesting read
It’s a very popular book
A food ministry book

Happy New Year!

How was your Christmas? I follow the liturgical calendar, which means Christmas doesn’t end until Epiphany, which is January 6.

Here are some Christmas cookies I made, gift boxes to send along for the holiday.

These chocolate tins are great for sending baked goodies!
A Christmas tree and star

Here is something interesting I discovered as part of my cooking and writing adventures, as I began organizing my folders of recipes. Take a look at this recipe for croissants. It’s off in so many different ways, not only with respect to how to set the yeast, but it explains a weird way of cutting butter into dough.

I never heard of setting yeast in this fashion!

So I just shook my head and modified from the first step. The second step, I tried it their way, but I added an almond past filling, and it was fine. I then went back to the original recipe and what it envisioned: plain butter croissants. I cut the butter into the flour.

Here’s a lunch I made a few weeks ago. I’d be starving myself for breakfast and dinner then exercising all afternoon.

How is the writing coming along? I’ve made good progress on rewriting, I’m down to the last third of the manuscript. I’m at the point where I’ll be able to recycle a good bit of what I wrote the first time around, which should make things go quicker.

These are some books I read this past month:

I finally finished it!
Workaholism has got to go!
I love books on brain health!

Have a great month!

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

Happy Advent–December is here!

The last Sunday in November after Thanksgiving is always a great one, because it’s typically the first Sunday in Advent, the first of four weeks before Christmas. That’s when I put up the Christmas tree and get out the list for sending Christmas cards. I’m thinking about gifts as well. Did you have a good Thanksgiving? Here’s a picture of cookies I made for the holiday.

More cookie cutters!

On the fiction romance writing front, I’m in serious revisions mode. There was a conference or two on writing that I attended recently, on line as usual, which was a wonderful thing. I learned so much, that I now know I have to do some major work on the manuscript I’d been revising for most of this year. If only I had this information last year! Oh well, what can I say? Such is the way of the writing life.

These are books I finished this past month.

As for the nonfiction food writing I was doing earlier this year, there is exciting news. Our issue is coming out soon, and so my essay will be included. I’ve been practicing my presentation, because we will each have a chance to present to the audience of people who are interested in our work.

The launch of our issue has had me thinking about cookbooks and recipes. I spent hours on Sunday organizing a huge folder I had and I found another folder for a collection I wanted to organize. Here are some examples of them. Marketers back in the 90s had a great idea. They sold cookbooks at the supermarket. They showed customers what recipes they might make with the products they sold.

I have so many of these!


I’m such an INTJ as per Myers Briggs. I typed up a directory.

This went onto the top of the file folder.

A whole section for recipes using eggs? There’s a method to my madness. Check these out: examples of egg dishes I might have for breakfast or lunch.

A hard a boiled egg, melted cheese, a home made roll, dates and avocado slices
A spinach omelet this time
A broccoli and cheese omelette, a roll and plantains
Rolls, fresh out of the oven!

Have a great month!

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

NaNoWriMo is here!

It’s November and NaNoWriMo is here!

Timely advice!

So this is National Novel Writing Month, a special treat for writers to challenge themselves to write a 50,000 word book manuscript in a month, on average 1600 words per day.

I admire those who can, but I could never pull it off.  When I’m not writing, I’m a busy stay-at-home wife with lots of responsibilities at home. I don’t have the time to write that much.

Writing notebook and hot beverage
New notebooks

Part of those responsibilities include cooking and baking. A fun energy had me interested in making sugar cookies, the type you roll out and might cut into shapes. These are my latest toys. Here is the result of the latest batch, thanks to a recipe I’ve been fine tuning, and food coloring I’ve been experimenting with.

New toys!

The tiny cookies are the samples. When I was a girl watching my mom and aunt bake, they’d always have the cakes they made and a sample to try out. My samples are the leftover dough when I didn’t have enough dough for using another cookie cutter. It’s just easier to roll up the pieces and have them bake on the sheet.

Right before they went into the oven

Returning to writing, although I can’t manage 50,000 words in a month, I can pull off 50,000 words in three months.

I just finished on Saturday October 30, my latest manuscript which I began on August 1, a first draft.

After this, I’ll get into the revisions, but I have another manuscript that I finished earlier this year that’s already in the first round of the revision process. I should submit the last of the chapters soon, but I really have to go back and revisit a few chapters that need not just editing but a thorough rewriting as part of the revision process.

My goal is to write two manuscripts per year. I began writing the current manuscript I’m revising sometime last December, I believe, and my goal was to have another manuscript done by then. I beat my deadline by one to two months, I’m glad to say.

I could have started the latest manuscript by September, but I wanted more leeway in case anything cropped up, so August it was.

How did I do it? Writing sprints have become my friend. My phone has a timer on it. I set it for at least one hour per day. If I have more time, I take shorter sprints of about half an hour. That can mean as much as two hours of writing spaced out during the course of the day. Each sprint is a solid stretch of uninterrupted time to write. If I need breaks, I stop the clock.

I have ideas for the next project, but I’m entering my off season of writing. That off season is for editing, revising, taking classes, and even writing in a different genre.

Another new thing I’ve started is to undertake an internet and computer fast at least one day in the week. I couldn’t believe how much more I got done. I was able to read more.

Here are some of the books I read.

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

I can’t believe how long it was on my tbr pile!
I’m scheduled to review this one