On being inspired…

I recall some correspondence from a few weeks ago.  A writer I was acquainted with was looking for reviewers, but she had no interest in reviewing other writers’ work.  Apparently she was in the midst of writing and didn’t want to be influenced (dare I say, with full snark–contaminated?) by them.

What an odd perspective.

I’ve always seen critique to be a give and take, and that dates back to my earlier training as a writer.  We wrote, reviewed each others’ work and continued with our own writing, with new insights and suggestions.

So in any event,  I was recently in the midst of a writer’s block.  I just finished editing Roger’s story.  Nothing more to do now, I think.  I am looking for an editor’s insights now.

I have had two ideas for the subsequent story, Kimberly or Lauren, Annelise’s friends who were also her bridesmaids.  But nothing was coming to me.  I played around with my Pinterest boards, where I had all kinds of images of male models I imagined would fit my visions of Rick’s friends, Don and Juan.  Still nothing.

Then I saw the program for the  Golden Apple Awards sponsored by my chapter of the RWA, and suddenly, I was inspired.

I saw my peers’ book covers.  Kay Blake’s latest one intrigued me.  What if the next book were from the heroine’s perspective, and I had a picture of her on the cover?

What an interesting twist!  Two books from a guy’s perspective, then a book from a woman’s perspective?

But that was as far as I got, as I continued to wonder, Lauren?  Kimberly?  I reviewed the sections of the book where I discussed them.  I thought about it on random occasions, and heard bits of conversation in my head as I tried to imagine my characters’ interaction.  Still nothing.

Then, this morning, I was baking in the kitchen.  I suppose I was in a playful mood.  It occurred to me, what if it were a romantic comedy?  By the time I was at the gym, I had a piece of scrap paper and was jotting down ideas.

I thought it was hilarious, and could work.  Lauren?  Kimberly?  Don?  Juan?  Based upon how I imagined my characters’ earlier development (off book, outside of Rick and Annelise’s story), I’m leaning towards Lauren.

This is going to be one hell of a ride!

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.



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.



My books!

Barbara James painting


My new contemporary inspirational series:

The Seminarians and Deacons:

comfort zone front jpeg (1) resizedSuzette compressed 3helena front

They can be read as stand-alones, but if you’d like to read them in order: Ayanna, Suzette, then Helena and Natasha.




These are the books in my sweet romance series, in order:

2nd rick coverLaurens e book coverroger_ e copy

Thank you for your interest. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing!





Follow me on:





Regards, Barbara.


Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.


Writing from Inspiration: Life Imitates Art?

This sounds like something straight out of a Daniel Silva novel, a high suspense thriller.  The possibilities for the writer seem endless.

The story goes back a few weeks.  On the Rooshvforum, the owner of the site reported that one of its members, “Rawmeo,” had died in Thailand.  I had seen the occasional essay he posted onto the message board about his life as an ex-pat there.  He seemed to be living the life, a wealthy young man with a wife and mistresses on the side.

The moment I saw the post that he died, I did a web search for foreigners dying in Thailand, and I thought I found a match.  His name was given as Alexandre Cazes, a 26 year old French Canadian.  The claim was he died of suicide in prison because he was facing extradition to the U.S.

Then I found news stories about the deceased.  He was an apparent underground crime lord who hosted a dark web site dedicated to supporting the endeavors of those pursuing illegal purchases of drugs, guns, and identity theft information.  His enterprise facilitated the purchases and sales, based upon a commission.

Going back to the Rooshvforum site, I saw all the posts he made, one in particular where he boasted about his wealth.  Members of the group questioned him about how he could have gotten so much money in such a short time.  He included pictures and apparently sent videos to prove he really was wealthy.

Sometime thereafter, the post discussing his death and all his posts were locked.  These were made accessible only to registered members of the site.

Recently, the owner of the site posted an essay and confirmed what I had guessed, that “Rawmeo” was Alexandre Cazes and that the authorities had investigated him through his posts on the site.  Just think of the surveillance that must have required, including engaging with him on the message board!

The U.S. government is pursing a forfeiture action to seize his assets, estimated to be worth $23 million.

Someone suggested one major mistake was that he moved to Thailand instead of a country where he would have been more likely to fit in, like Argentina.

Cazes is in the picture on the left, in front of the very car I saw in one of his  posts.  The Argentinian soccer player in the middle of the picture on the right resembles him.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.

Pinterest Boards as Inspiration

I like pinterest boards because I visualize not only my characters, but certain scenes.  I especially like to include images relating to clothes, music, and food.

With respect to clothes, I might have an idea of what something looks like, but once I look for inspiration, the image is clarified.   With that clarification, I might change a description of something or include something new, or even cut something out altogether because it is not working as I imagine.  I might even go to my closet and try on some of my own outfits.  The clothing my characters wear often indicate something about their personalities and values.

Certain songs might express the emotions a character is experiencing and processing, or even the thoughts on their minds.  Certain songs might signify a scene.  Food might be important, because it is the backdrop to a specific scene.  A birthday cake might be important for that reason.

I suppose I’m covering all the senses in that regard.  And that matters, because scenes in a novel are supposed to evoke for the reader a sense of what the characters are experiencing.  What are they seeing?  What are they hearing?  What are they tasting?  In order to get into their heads, I must open myself up to be inspired.  That is the only way they can tell me what they are about.  So I research, read, and listen.

There is one writer I admire whose  use of pinterest has inspired me.  Elizabeth Hoyt has these great pinterest boards where she conceptualizes her works in progress.  In addition, she includes images from her book covers once the books are nearing publication.  Commenting on some of the images, I sometimes found myself interested in a story just because the board looked interesting.

I aim to use the board similar to how Ms. Hoyt uses hers.  It is hidden for now, but once I get close to publication, I’m sure my readers would love to see the pictures that inspired certain scenes.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.


The editorial process…

…so I finished a draft I was sufficiently pleased with to show to an editor.  I found one on Reedsy and then began working on the second novel.

I chose a developmental editor, the type of editor who helps writers conceptualize the story and its flow.  This is a woman who knows the romance genre fairly well, so I trust her judgment.  I’m sure learning a lot about the conventions not only of romance novels, but of fiction in general.  Once she made her suggestions, she urged me to refer to essays written by various writing experts.

This is not like my old writing within non-fiction, so I have work to do.  She liked reading it, but she thinks I can do another draft.  Because I’m a good enough writer, she doesn’t think I need a proofreader (ha!), but I should look next to finding a copy editor to do a line by line edit.

So I’m looking at her suggestions in track changes, and I’m cutting a bit from the early chapters (that I have reviewed so far).  But I’m not ready to give up these precious paragraphs!  I worked so hard on them, I want to use them somewhere, somehow.

Now  I just have to think about story lines to develop in some new chapters, and how I’m going to write them.  Wish me luck!

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.



Shared Prologues

Stephanie Laurens, historical writer of romances set in the British regency period, has done this in her series, the Bastion Club.

It makes sense, because if a book is part of a series, there is often a theme which unites them.  In the case of the Bastion Club, it was the return to civilian life of a number of young aristocratic men after the Battle of Waterloo that marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars.  They were civilians now with an interest in settling down and marrying.  But because they had been out of British society for so long while they were fighting overseas, they felt at a loss.  How and where might they meet eligible women?  Their goal was to lend each other support as they went about dating.  That was one series I really enjoyed.  Her recent work, set a generation or so after that period, just can’t compare.

In the case of the series I’m imagining, the shared prologue will center around the wedding which I spoke of earlier.  The main characters in the first novel see their wedding as a means of setting up some of their favorite friends and relatives.  Not all are interested, of course, because they already have their own lives and partners.  But those who are interested, the message is, feel free to go for it!

This prologue would have been alluded to in the first novel, but would only be developed a bit more in the subsequent novels, and from the different partners’ perspectives.  This is where I differ from Ms. Laurens approach.  Her prologue was the same for each of the books.

But developing different perspectives means that as I started to write the second novel (which should have been the fourth), I had to go back and forth regarding certain details.  What made sense the first time around, might not make any sense now, and so there might have been inconsistencies that I had to correct in order to be certain about all the details.

Moreover, some characters are just not conducive to my plans!   Like I said previously, fiction writing for me is like an ongoing episode of the Pirandello project, Six Characters.  My characters have their own lives, needs and interests.  It is just up to me to listen to what they are telling me as I see what they are up to.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.

Connected Books

I can see how it can happen.  As my characters go about their lives, they have connections to other people:  friends and relatives.  This happened when I was preparing the main character’s wedding scene.  It had been on my mind for a few days, and as tends to happen when I’m walking around doing my errands or I’m working out, something occurred to me.

It felt like the main character was calling me out, taking me to task:  “Miz Writer Lady, if you want my boys to show up and be groomsmen at my wedding, it won’t happen ‘just like that.’  I have to talk to them about it beforehand, the same way you had my lady talk to her girls about being her bridesmaids.”

He was right.  I included a scene in where the female lead interacted with her friends.  Why not have one for him?  Suddenly, I needed to fine tune some descriptions of a character or fine tune a scene because there were some other people around who might make things more colorful or interesting.  In addition, I could see these secondary characters in their own scenes and stories.  I got an inkling of their personalities, the things that interest them, what their lives might be like.  Some secondary characters are more forceful at others in making themselves known.  They will likely be the ones to get their book first.

They will tackle their own relationship questions and matters.  The next characters will address ethnicity and not necessarily race.   So as I mentioned, the male lead has several friends who were his groomsmen at his wedding to the female lead.  They will be partnered with a number of her friends and relatives who were bridesmaids.  One is a light skinned Latino man, she will be a darker toned Latino woman.  Another character is an African American man from the South.  His partner will be an Afro-Caribbean woman born in the U.S. but raised overseas.  The bride’s sister is one of the bridesmaids; she is partnered with one of the groomsmen, but she is only 16 and is thus a bit too young right now.  We will have to wait and see regarding her story.

I thought the Latino man’s story was going to be easier to write.  He just seemed to be the biggest extrovert in telling me who he is, what he does for a living, and what he is like when he is on the prowl.  But after that, there was nothing.  Doing my research, I didn’t have a clue of where he wanted to go in the future, what were his hopes and aspirations?  Nothing yet.  But the African American man, he was very nebulous in the beginning.  I had a sense of his personality, extraverted in a large group of pals, but quiet, similar to the main character.  I had a basic idea of where he lived and what he did for a living.  I knew how he was going to meet up with his female counterpart once the wedding was over.  But after that, nothing.  After doing more research, I had a firmer idea.  He is in a different field now, and he has more concrete plans for his future.

Yet, just the other day, I saw a picture of Hannah Bronfman, daughter of the Bronfman family elite, owners of Seagram’s.  Then I saw a picture of her fiancé and looked at a few interviews they had.  I was fascinated.  They became the model for one of the couples I have in mind, the younger sister of the female lead in the first novel.  So now that is what is on my mind, I’m jotting down notes and saving pinterest images.  Now that the first book is in the editing process, I can begin to write her story.

I carry my e-reader with me all the time and I have scrap paper in my bag.  I jot down ideas all the time or work them through as I exercise in the morning, into a notes file I keep on the e-reader or onto the scrap paper I carry.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.