Inspiration–on a roll!

So I finished looking over my developmental editor’s track changes last night, and I finally managed to figure out how to create different headers for different sections of the manuscript.  I did it for Starting Over:  Rick, but I just couldn’t recall it.  Luckily I found a link on line.  I copied it into my notes page.

This manuscript will be longer, because it covers more time.  So I’ll single space it eventually, and put it in smaller font. I have gotten some great feedback on images for the hero–advice on which of two pictures to choose.

Now it is time to read it without the track changes on.  After that, I’ll find a copy editor and then a proofreader.  Once I have an idea of the length, then I can go to the graphics artist to design the cover.  I did it too early in the process for the first book, so I’ve learned my lesson.

This morning, I got up, and I felt inspired once I saw some NYT stories about military weddings in the vows section.

It seemed for the longest while that the characters of my next two books were just not coming together.

Maybe it was realizing that I’m closer to finishing this second book, Going Home:  Roger.  This book is about Denise and Roger’s story.

Then suddenly,  I had inspiration for the third book.  I talked about this before.  I only got inspired when I saw a book written by a friend in my RWA chapter, to write from the heroine’s perspective.  So I’ll introduce her story at the close of Denise and Roger’s book, the Wedding Bet:  Lauren.

Returning to my source of stock images, I was focusing once again, upon the hero for the fourth–Juan.  He was the one who had been chatting with me.  But he had been silent for the longest while.  Again, nothing was coming to me!  Suddenly, Kim, the heroine, began chatting about what she had been up to, and why she is the way she is.  She even told me what she needs from the hero!

I had no idea what she was like.  I get it now.  I started jotting down notes and looking for images of what she looks like.   I have a tentative title for her book:  Finding Home:  Kim.

Copyright Barbara James.  All reserved.

Silly heroines?

This has been on my mind lately, because I have been reading some book club choices through Goodreads.

Regarding one book, I posted in my review.

It took me some time to get into the book, because the heroine fit certain silly stereotypes of modern women’s empowerment. I’m sure there was a reason the author pursued this track, but the heroine’s behavior made me roll my eyes.  The heroine broke up with a boyfriend because he was “too boring and conventional,” when she wanted excitement, but that can only come from a “bad boy,” and in her binary thinking, conventional men couldn’t be exciting. She foolishly put herself in a dangerous situation, wearing skimpy clothing and six inch high heels to a sleazy bar where she hoped to find a bad boy sex partner. Instead, she was almost attacked, and had to be rescued by the hero.

With respect to the other book, a member of the group observed the heroine was “reckless, self absorbed and pushy.”

I was glad she said that, because she read further than I did.  I was only a few pages into the first chapter when I noticed that about the heroine:  “foolish and pushy in her obsessions with fossils.”

I said to myself,

I’ve read enough romances to see where this is going. It is inevitable, because of her foolishness, she will eventually do something stupid which will jeopardize her safety and others’. She won’t listen and will go somewhere she shouldn’t and confront people she shouldn’t.

Another reader posted:

I’m far enough into the story to confirm that your predictions are quite true.  While I was into ch 5, I thought of quitting because I thought that the only thing that could please me is if this dingbat got a serious comeuppance and learned a hard lesson, but alas, she is a “strong” heroine that is very much in demand.

I wondered,

What is the purpose of writers presenting us with these types of heroines? Since when does strong have to mean stupid? I suppose it is part of the current cultural perspective that I have been thinking about lately, in light of some opinion pieces and even new stories I have seen.  Women’s empowerment is to be celebrated at all costs, even when it is grounded in silliness and poor judgment? Because ideology above everything, including reality!

It might be easy to think that authors are mocking empowered women, but it seems that art is imitating life.

Someone else wondered.  Books like these made her “question what the opposite of a strong woman is. Quiet? Hidden? Non-complaining? Single?”

My reply:

That is the thing I wonder about. Do we presume that strong has to mean arrogant, obnoxious and in other people’s faces about how strong one is? That seems to be the case in our culture.  Why can’t strong be seen as something less extroverted and public in its declaration? What about strong as wise and resilient? One can embody quiet strengths, and I don’t mean stoic in hiding one’s emotions like men traditionally have been urged to do.   Being a woman of strength should be something that is so obvious, that the reader doesn’t have to be banged over the head with it.   That is the problem with these characters. It is as though they have to prove they are strong, which makes me question just how strong they are when their strength isn’t linked to the wisdom that would make me admire their strengths, because they are stubborn and foolish.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.

Advent: The Christmas season begins!



images.duckduckgo.comFor some people, and especially the retailers, the Christmas season begins directly after Thanksgiving. We already got our first card! But for me, the real Christmas season begins the first Sunday of Advent, which took place on Dec. 3. Time to break out the Advent candles, put up the Christmas tree, send out the cards, and think about the gifts. A great season for buying books!


Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.


Introverted characters?

My editor noticed this, that my characters tend to socialize one-on-one, focusing the most of their energy on the private nature of their relationships, rather than going to lots of parties, bars, or clubs.  They don’t tend to double date and talk much to others about their relationships.

My introverted young women are not ones to experience life through the lens of emotional drama.  They won’t get drunk and then do crazy things, because they don’t live their lives crazily.  They think logically and are practical.  They create strategies and plan, generally thinking and processing before they talk, whether about their thoughts or feelings.

My introverted young men are like the heroes of a few of Grace Burrowes’ novels, specially my favorite, Douglas:  quiet, observant, shrewd as can be, hard-working, competent, and tough when they need to be. All of their intensity is focused upon the women in their lives.  The types of women they value are the ones who are loyal and passionate about them and their relationship, yet reserved and private, because they know that those are qualities that will bode well for a successful long term relationship.

And how does that tie into writing sweet romances, those with no explicit sex scenes?  My characters like to get busy, without question, but they are private about it, so to put it tongue in cheek, I won’t violate their privacy!

Does that seem boring, shy, or socially maladjusted?  Do characters like these seem too mature for their age, like middle aged matrons and fuddy-duddy old men?

Susan Cain, author of the book, Quiet, argues that in a culture that is overwhelming extroverted, introverts tend to be seen as weird.

I suppose that is why I like writing introverted characters, because I am one:  INTJ proud!  Nothing motivates me more than sitting in my study with my thoughts, keyboard, and a window to look out of as I think.  Apparently, writing is an ideal career for INTJ types.

Even though I have written extroverted ones, the introverts are the ones that grab me, because I think they are far more interesting, with depths that many don’t realize or experience because they don’t feel the need to be “out there.”

But here is the thing, lots of introverts have developed a sufficiently extroverted persona that becomes useful in their day-to-day life, because their jobs and other activities might require it.  However, look to see what really motivates them, and you will see exactly where their hearts are.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.

Sweet romances–a new definition?

A romance blogger was inspired by me to write a whole post on defining sweet romances.  I must say I was flattered:  link.

The irony is that she was critical of me in a way that made no sense, and it was quite apparent from the comments.  The phrase “sweet romance” is a simple marketing strategy that works well enough for now.

Sweet romances with no explicit sex scenes as implying that there is something wrong with sex?  Not at all, some writers and readers just have different preferences regarding what they write and read.

So my characters are young women who go to college in the hope of getting good grades and jobs upon graduation.  They also want to get their Mrs. Degree, marriage to a serious boyfriend before graduation or immediately afterwards.

She critiqued sweet romances as indicating a political perspective packaged as a matter of personal choices.  I scratched my head upon reading that one:  “It never questions why certain women should want such things, or what role public policies and institutions might have played in shaping private, ‘personal’ decisions.”

In what universe would this be seen as something worthy of political analysis?

Most women don’t live their lives based upon a scorecard whether their personal choices developed through specific public policies and institutions.  They just live their lives in the way they believe best fits them and their needs.

I posted in her comments:  “I’m so glad I inspired you!”

She was glad to hear from me, because I make her think.  It is good to have these types of conversations, where we can critique and encourage.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.


Coming up for air….

So I chatted with the developmental editor on 6th, and it was slow going at first.  Editing and using track changes can be so tedious!

But I had to literally chain my butt to the desk so that I could finish:  tweaking and writing.

I sent it back to her, before I actually expected to.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.

Modern Christian Romance?

I read this interesting blog essay, which reminded me of something.  On Goodreads, someone added a “Modern Christian Romance” category for the book.

Rather surprising, I didn’t think anyone would get it.  I wonder who put in the category?  A Goodreads librarian?

Here is what I posted to the blog:

Hi, thanks for posting a review of this book! It looks great. I’ll have to look for it.

Although I don’t think of myself as a writer of religious romances, religion matters for my characters.

The women are more religious than their partners, and that is part of their appeal. But these aren’t prudish young women, since they are members of Protestant sects that are more liberal regarding sex.

The men had been lapsed. Their relationships provide a means of getting back on track with a new faith tradition and a new sense of community.

But the sex is closed door, because I don’t think graphic sex scenes are necessary–these are sweet romances!

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.


A writing philosophy?

A blogger who reviews romance novels recently drafted an essay which I found interesting.

Feminist romance was the topic.  From what I perceive to be the perspective of mainstream feminism, doesn’t it seem oxymoronic?  Aren’t romance novels disempowering of women?  Aren’t they too traditionally feminine to be considered feminist?

Is this even an issue?  It isn’t an issue for me, because I just don’t tend to think about feminism on a day-to-day basis.

But I wanted to challenge myself by answering her question, “how would you define feminist romance?”

A central story in which the characters and/or the author demonstrates a commitment to empowering women and men in their romantic relationships.  The main plot centers around individuals falling in love under circumstances where women and men bring their best selves and become the best they can be.  Patriarchy enables men to recognize and act upon their best strengths while enabling them to support women’s strengths and protect women’s needs in relationships.

An emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.  Lovers who dedicate themselves to building their relationship upon a foundation of love, care, and respect are rewarded with happiness and stable relationships that persist for the rest of their lives.

Why no language of equality?  Women define their personal goals and visions for feminism and their relationships in different ways.  Some want equality, some want protection, and still even others are more dominant in their relationships.

I write sweet romances.  So my characters might be seen as anti-feminist.  They are in college, but they want to graduate with their Mrs. Degree, work, and have their first children by their mid twenties.  They would rather become stay at home moms, work from home, or work part time while their children are small.


Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.