Twitter, writing, and me

external-content.duckduckgo.comHappy September! Twitter on social media is such a great place for me, insofar as I have made connections for writing community. From the simple 5amwritersclub hashtag where I post updates and learn how others are doing, to the more profound.

Yesterday was the more profound day. It began with me simply checking Twitter for my daily updates. There are a number of people on there that I like to hear from, because they are often talking about interesting things.

One tweet was a post describing a quiz; see the link, what type of Anglican are you?

I was inordinately curious. My people, talking about Anglicanism? So of course, I took the quiz to learn more, and was I ever blown away at how knowledgeable the creator of the quiz was about Anglicans, our liturgical preferences and dispositions. All of his observations were grounded in a firm understanding of the movements within Anglicanism and the key thinkers within each.

Needless, to say, I spent the day reading and researching. I looked through my books on theology and church history. I borrowed Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers, to get a stronger sense of how some of the earlier debates played out within Anglicanism.

But how does this affect my writing? Well, my latest heroine is in a new ministry situation. It makes me wonder, what kind of Anglican might she be? Perhaps she will tell me as we continue on our revisions.

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

 

 

Hot Summer!

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My romance writer’s chapter is hosting a hot summer this August, of excerpts from our novels: link.

Here is Ayanna’s: link.

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Todd didn’t even think. He just reached out to hug her. “You feel bad.”

Her voice wobbled. “Yes. But angry too.”

“I’m sure you have had difficult cases before this. But this is different.”

“It is.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

Sitting back, he reached for her hands. “Perhaps you should think about it, perhaps even do a reflection.”

Ayanna looked down at their clasped hands. “I’d be embarrassed to.”

He reached up to touch her face and hair. “It’s hard having to be tough all the time, and you probably hate that you feel vulnerable.”

She didn’t look at him. “Maybe.”

“Beyond that, I can guess. Something about identity, how you feel about where you are in life, your place in the world? You will need to process this anyway.”

“Perhaps.” She nodded. “Yes. But not for the class, though. Too private.”

Todd didn’t know what came over him. He began kissing her.

Ayanna whispered. “Oh . . . what?”

Todd could sense Ayanna’s surprise, but it felt so right. He couldn’t believe how passionately she was kissing him. Before he knew it, he had gotten off his chair and was kneeling in front of her and running his hands all over her as she hugged him, grabbed his hair, traced the tattoo on his upper arm and clutched at his uniform.

Todd felt Ayanna shudder after they came up for air. He hugged her and kissed her hair.

“Todd, I don’t know what came over me.” She put her hands into her face and looked away. “Um, should I apologize?”

Todd burst out laughing as he got up. “Maybe I should be the one to do so. I just felt like comforting you.”

“It was a distraction. I must admit I didn’t mind it.”

“That’s what I hoped. As for apologizing, are you for real? You don’t need to apologize for anything, but we do need to talk.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Wrong answer.”

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

Barbara James loves writing sweet and inspirational contemporary romances.  Visit her at http://www.barbarajames.net.

My latest read

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It’s been a while since I posted a specific book review instead of just noting that I’ve been reading. But this book, Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams, seemed important enough to get its own book review: link, and blog post.

Queenie is going into free fall. She just broke up with her boyfriend Tom even as she miscarried a pregnancy neither of them knew about.

In order to get over him, she decides to go on a rebound rampage, having sex with whatever guys who want her, in the name of improving her self esteem and in support of what seems to be her feminist sexual empowerment.

But she goes further into free fall as the guys she has sex with see her as nothing more than a sex object that they can pump, dump, and even abuse. But she tells herself she likes the rough sex they offer her, even as she feels terrible because she isn’t getting the emotional intimacy she craves.

Queenie approaches rock bottom after showing up several times at the sexual health clinic because she is worried about STDS–none of her partners practice safe sex. Her health care provider is concerned that she is being abused sexually or even prostituted, but Queenie denies it. Even as she denies it, the health care provider gives her a referral to see a therapist.

Queenie goes further into the pit when her boss puts her on a leave of absence because she is becoming erratic at work and one of the men who had sex with her–a coworker named Ted who came onto her hot and heavy–files a sexual harassment claim as though she had been the one harassing him.

I felt for her as a reader as I could see the downward spiral she was in from the beginning, but I couldn’t help but wonder why she was adapting feminist models of empowerment that did nothing for her as an Afro-Caribbean British woman of Jamaican descent. The discussion group guide didn’t address this. Yet, it’s clear that feminism and black lives matter is a strong component of Queenie’s consciousness.

My heart broke when she said she thought she deserved the treatment she experienced.

For those reasons, the book was a difficult read, and I even wondered whether the author was celebrating Queenie’s lifestyle choices, until I recalled the epigraph dedicated to the “Queenies.” It seems the author was critiquing the realities that shaped Queenie’s experiences, but I thought she could have done more.

Black women have always talked about the significance of sexual domination in feminist theory–there are too many thinkers to recount here–but Queenie, as a 20-something, doesn’t seem versed in them. I suppose that has to do with the reality of where feminist theory has been developing, third wave choice and power feminism. Whatever makes a woman feel empowered is feminist, and without any critique or judgment.

I can’t help but think that if Queenie had other feminist tools, she would have gotten some insights much earlier, to critique the choices she was making and why.

It was only through her therapy sessions that we learn of the abuse she experienced as a child and the abuse of her mother that she observed which led her down this path. Her mother was a single mom; her father was a married man who never told her mother he had a wife. Her mom then found a boyfriend who abused both of them.

Queenie associates black men with abandonment and abuse at the same time the white men (and one Asian man) she has sex with see her as a side piece while they date and marry other women (white and Asian) whom they respect and value more.

Queenie’s healing and redemption came through in the end when she could grow through talk therapy as she continued to rely on the support of her family and best female friends. She removed the toxicity in her life–refusing to date another prejudiced white man; getting Ted fired; and finally removing Tom’s contact from her phone.

I liked learning more about Black British culture, as I thought about the parallels to Black culture in the U.S., and especially as it related to the Afro-Caribbean diaspora and the significance of Brixton, the London neighborhood where Queenie’s Jamaican grandparents had strong ties.

With respect to the faith background of Queenie’s family, they are Roman Catholic, but it’s only a strong component among the members of the earlier generations. Even that made me wonder, though. How might she have been helped through her family’s faith tradition? So even though Queenie isn’t an inspirational romance, it’s a valuable read as an example of modern chick lit within women’s fiction.

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

Happy August!

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Either you see August as the middle of summer or the end of it, with school starting soon, even though most people see the real end of summer as taking place in September with Labor Day.

So what is striking about this August? I’ve never seen an August so fraught with anxiety as schools talk about how to begin this new academic year. At least that is what the media tells us.

When I talk to the people I know who have school-aged and college-aged children, they seem eager to return to normal.

But what will that normal look like? That is where there are differences between the anxious and the “go with the flow” folks. People with the time and energy to find out what is going on can seem lackadaisical when they seem to be doing nothing. They are just waiting to hear what the school authorities will do and they will follow. I’m definitely with the anxious folks with no eagerness at all to return to normal.

So what’s up with me nowadays? Well, it occurred to me that it’s been almost a year since I began workshopping Austin’s book to get feedback. After my last critique session a few months ago, I used his manuscript in a self-editing class, and I think I’ve done enough with him for now. I’d rather get more feedback regarding the next work in progress, because it’s newer. I just finished the first draft earlier this year. So I recently made the edits based upon the latest feedback and prepared for the next round of critique sessions.

So it’s time for Austin and Natasha to take a trip to the editor. I’m helping them pack. Smile.

Some new characters are starting to talk to me. I think I need to start thinking about character interviews and even book proposals.

My local RWA chapter will meet online through the rest of the year. I’m liking this, because it’s just so much more convenient, plus there are people we hardly see. With the Zoom conference calls, they are finally able to make our meetings.

Otherwise? I’ve been reading. Check me out on Goodreads: link.

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

RWA-NYC Blog Tour

Check out the books written by our chapter members: link.blog-tour-july-badge

Here is an excerpt from Reaching the End Zone: Suzette, in honor of the RWA-NYC blog tour this week.

Her book is available on Amazon: link.

The setting: Suzette and Bobby had just gotten married earlier in the day.

___________________________________________________________Suzette compressed 3

Bobby sat on the couch and watched where Suzette was sitting on the bed in their room at the 1300 Beacon Inn. They were staying for the night with a flight out of Logan in the morning.

She kicked off her shoes and stretched out her feet. “Bobby, I think I’m drunk!”

Now this is going to get very interesting and real soon. He walked over to her. “Is that so?”

“Yesh, booze, I think.” She nodded emphatically. “Food, too. Toasts, lots of toasts. Dancin. Shreamin.”

“Oh yes, that song by Usher. You were screaming when I took you onto the dance floor.”

She stretched and moved her head back and forth.

He sat next to her, put his arms around her, and looked into her face. “Testing to make sure how you feel?”

“I think so. Tipsy?” She was practically leering at him.

Bobby grinned. He had never seen Suzette like this before. What an adventure being married was going to be! “So, what do you want to do about it?”

“I dunno.” She got up and waddled over to the mirror. Twirling, she studied herself. “My hair. Looks very, very pretty.”

“It does.”

“Want to mess it up?”

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

Happy Fourth of July Weekend!

Eve49659618n though social distancing restrictions are being lifted in my community, we are still living in a pandemic, so I’m content to be a homebody in the midst of the celebrations.

So what have I been up to? I began this book as a Morning Prayer reading project during Eastertide. I just finished this morning, the 5th Sunday after Pentecost.

The individual chapters are the book’s greatest strengths. Each writer discusses their unique struggles of a call to ministry that can involve engagement with the greater world outside of the walls of the church.

The editors Timothy Keller and John Inazu’s conclusion points to three means of engagement, each of which leads to challenges: defensive against; purity from; relevant to.

This discussion pushes me to think about how I see myself as a writer, to engage with the world on my own terms, drawing upon my own perspectives: inspirational romance.

Copyright Barbara James, all rights reserved.

My latest read

My characters and I enjoyed the latest romance novel that I just finished. Smile.

Ayanna likes it because it took place in a hospital, and she is working in clinical chaplaincy. Helena likes it because she appreciates the importance of dating with integrity and care because of boundaries.

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This wonderful and wholesome medical romance had me smiling and crying: link.

Lauren Taylor is a resident in clinical pharmacology at the local hospital.

On the day Andrew Bishop goes in for his informational session regarding his newly diagnosed Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Lauren bounces into him at the hospital cafeteria and spills her coffee.

Lauren was speechless at how hot he was, but she put it out of her mind, until she realized he was the patient she was supposed to see later that morning, the last day of her rounds in the unit.

Although Andrew is no longer her patient, she can’t help but wonder about him, and he can’t put Lauren out of his mind.

How to date–if at all–when she’s worried about violating boundaries? How to date–if at all–when he has no idea what his future will be? Can their attraction and interest in dating survive his cancer treatments?

I appreciated the characters’ maturity in negotiating their attraction with honesty and integrity. Their struggle for a happily-ever-after in the midst of his cancer treatments was heart-wrenching.

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

Reflections for the month of June

Sometime within the past year, I was invited by one of my online chapters of the RWA to draft reflections for the month of June: link. I signed up.

If I had a crystal ball, would I have done it? I don’t know.

Reflections for the month of June? Where do I begin? Covid cases, A quarantine that has persisted since mid March, and so many job losses because of the quarantine.

And now the protests that make me wonder about new Covid cases that might crop up. A group walked through our quiet residential neighborhood last week, but there was no violence. The violence took place near the post office and the high school. There were scuffles with the police and a police car was burned. A curfew is in place, but with the quarantine, people haven’t been going out much.

Distractions like these make it harder for me to write. And yet, I have persisted, not only with the writing, but with the revising. I have two different drafts I’m working with. Focus, focus, focus, the old saying, “butt in the chair.” I add, “close the web browsers and ignore the social media. Try not to read the news so much.”

One positive note is that I’m doing an editing class with Angela James, a former editor at a few well known romance publishing companies: link. She does freelance work now, including offering classes to writers on how to self-edit our work.

Every day I try to do something in light of the lessons she has available for us. It’s hard work, and so it’s going to be a tedious June. But this work is necessary, and will make my work with my critique group even stronger.

Another positive note. I attended the virtual ordination of some old friends from my ministry cohort. The folks ordained today were finishing their first year when I was was ordained two years ago. It was weird, everyone in masks, but I knew who they were. No crowds, nobody in the cathedral but them. No opportunity to meet anyone, because we were all watching from our computers.

I don’t know who is following in their footsteps. The folks who are within any one ordination cohort overlap by 1 to 3 years. They get to know each other at various gatherings during the time of their training. If you’re not training with them, you’re less likely to know who they are. You might hear of their ordinations, but the connection won’t be there.

I suppose it’s fitting that I’m done with the first draft of the manuscript for their story. The story of their romance inspired the fictional story I’ve been writing.

Copyright Barbara James, all rights reserved.

 

Author of the Month

Happy Memorial Day weekend! I never imagined a Memorial Day weekend like this.

My local romance writers’ chapter hosts an “author of the month” feature, where members are invited to talk about their writing journey. These typically take place at our in-person meetings, but with Covid-19, they are taking place online.

And so it was a few weeks ago this month that I was the author of the month. Our president submitted some questions which I then answered.

But otherwise, I have a first draft of my latest work in progress which I have been reading with my romance writers’ critique group. As for the previous one, I am currently revising. The critique group gave me some feedback in April.

Have you heard of 1531 Entertainment? They serve as a clearinghouse for inspirational novels: link.

In addition, have you heard of the #Rombklove hashtag on twitter? The host offers great discussion questions about novels: link.

Here are the questions:

What made you choose contemporary romance?

I’ve always been interested in contemporary stories, the modern day challenges that people face in finding and building relationships, so when I chose to become a romance writer, I focused on writing the contemporary period.

Why did you move over to inspirational?

I began writing sweet and sensuous (a tad sexy) romances, which was great. My inspirationals are still sweet, but I’ve added a different edge, the challenges people of faith might face in dating relationships. I was drawn to this from my own ordination process.

A few years ago, I was at a retreat when the bishop held a workshop for all of us. He invited the partnered people to go to one side of the room and then invited the single people to go to another section. He then asked each group to chat on their own about the challenges they imagine they might face as clergy people or even as people training to become clergy, through the ordination process and beyond. Why did he do this? “MeToo” was a major factor, how might clergy face boundary problems? Whether in relating to other clergy or even parishioners: clergy who might press boundaries or even parishioners who might chase clergy. A lot of room to think and learn and write.

I address these in my latest novels and works in progress, except that my characters are in the ordination process. They are interested in dating at the same time they are pursuing their call to ordained ministry. What makes their ordination process unique? My characters explain exactly why.

These are the two earlier books. I could have done a four book series, but I can only juggle two books at at a time! So I’m glad to be in the revising process with respect to the two books I wrote after finishing Ayanna and Suzette’s books.

A cute update: the couple that inspired one of the works in progress, well they got married last year and are getting ordained together in early June! It will be a virtual service, when I was so used to attending services at the cathedral.