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.

 

Is this really May?

It’s hard to believe that we are halfway into spring at the same time we are halfway into this quarantine.

But here we are. So what have I been doing, besides getting used to going out less and doing more virtual meetings on Zoom? Outside of watching music videos and movies on line?

What I’ve always been doing, besides my writing? Reading a lot. So I am going to blog today about a fantastic book I just finished reading: Lean on Me, by Pat Simmons, a well known writer of contemporary inspirational romances. The book is described as fitting within romantic women’s fiction.

I posted a review on Goodreads:

I am always on the look out for books by other inspirational romance writers. When I saw this one, I was interested because of the story’s emphasis on eldercare ministry.

I thoroughly enjoyed this contemporary romance: the characters’ arc of growth and their journey through their happily ever after.

The books in this series focus upon the stories of three sisters who undertake the daunting task of taking care of their elderly Aunt Tweet, a lady with dementia. The agreement was that each would be caretaker for six months at a time. Aunt Tweet’s deterioration over time will likely be the sobering sub plot that will unite the three sisters through their own happily ever after.

Tabitha never realized what being a caretaker would really mean, and Marcus didn’t have a clue, believing Tabitha was just neglectful in failing to keep the elderly lady off his property.

The characters grew on each other and on us at the same time, and as they grew in their faith.

It took a lot of faith for Tabitha to gain the strength and patience she needed. As Marcus grew in his affection for Tabitha and Aunt Tweet, he grew in strength, patience and faith in being supportive of Tabitha.

The sermons of the preacher they heard on Sunday mornings provided excellent context for their faith journeys. In addition, the challenges Marcus had as a business owner helped in clearing his path towards growth.

Ms. Simmons did an excellent job in presenting Aunt Tweet as a dementia patient–it was poignant yet heart-rending–so I wasn’t surprised that her character was based upon Ms. Simmons’ own grandmother who had dementia. Her understanding of the pastoral care needs of patients and their families was clear.

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

My Interview with Toni Shiloh….

Outside of watching Emma for inspiration, I’ve also been listening to music. What tunes fit the energy of certain scenes, the sentiments behind the characters’ actions, the mood of what is going on? YouTube is my friend!

The writing is coming along. I’m in a pivotal scene. Helena’s hero, Leon, is growing and developing in some interesting ways. So I’m going to see where he will take us on his journey.

Also, an important announcement. In honor of Suzette’s first month out in the world, I did an interview with Toni Shiloh, the fantastic host of diverse fiction, a blog devoted to diverse inspirational romances.

Here it is: link. To find Suzette on Amazon: link.

We talked about Suzette, her journey towards her happily ever after, and that of Bobby, the hero of her novel. What was Suzette’s typical day like? How did that change over time?

I hope you enjoy this brief introduction to Suzette and her world!

______________________________________________________

Here is an excerpt:

Barbara: Suzette’s average day changes throughout the book, and that is what makes her story interesting, how she grows and changes over time.

At the beginning, she’s on summer break and working as nanny, because it’s the best way for her to make money during the summer. By working as a nanny, she’s drawing upon her prior experience as a schoolteacher–she taught before attending seminary.

Once school begins, Suzette is taking her classes and serving as a lay minister in the parish where she is doing her ministry internship. As part of her training, she assists at the Sunday service and organizes programming for young adults in the church community.

At the end of the book, she graduated seminary and was ordained. Suzette is in this in-between period of getting ready to undertake her first full time job in Children, Youth, and Family ministry. So she is drawing upon her skills as a teacher and developing her ministry in a church setting. Other than that, she was preparing for her wedding and getting ready to move out of her apartment. Robert found them a new place to live in the neighborhood where he lived prior to meeting Suzette.

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.Suzette compressed 3

On Watching Emma

How has your past month gone?

It’s been a crazy one, dealing with this whole Coronavirus Covid-19 quarantine social distancing thing.

My gym shut down and then services shut down. The two types of activities that oriented my days, just evaporated. My romance writers’ group didn’t meet. In this brave new world, we are turning to virtual meetings, and I’m looking at services on line.

Now that I’m living like a hermit, I bought a new exercise machine the week things were getting shut down. I dragged out an old exercise mat and some free weights, creating my own home gym. I’m reading more books than usual, and my e-reader shows it through Overdrive, Barnes and Noble’s and Amazon.

I go out at most once or twice per week, and only for necessities.

So how is my writing going? It’s coming along. Austin and Natasha are hanging out, just watching as Helena’s book is taking shape. Her hero is Austin’s cousin Leon, so I’m enjoying seeing these two young men as they interact.

This past week or so, I learned from Twitter that there was a new movie adaptation of the Jane Austen book, Emma. That tells you how out of the loop I was. I last saw the Gwyneth Paltrow one. Apparently there was one that came out in 2009 besides the one that came out this year.

I’ve always enjoyed period pieces, Masterpiece Theater in particular. The costumes and clothes always appealed to me. So how might her work from 1815 be relevant to me today?  Austen was writing about elite English culture where standards of behavior were rigid. Courtship took place under very constrained circumstances.

In writing my inspirational romances, I’m pushing myself to do something similar to what Austen’s characters were dealing with. I wanted to see how the directors of both movies dealt with the couples experiencing an awakening sexual interest but with constraints placed upon them.

Mr. Knightley had always been the older brother/young uncle type to Emma, a neighbor and family friend sixteen years older. They were in and out of each other’s houses because of that neighborliness, but also because his brother was married to her sister. Her father was much older and eccentric, more removed from offering parental guidance.

Emma never imagined him as a love interest, but dedicated herself to finding matches for everyone else, until the point she realized her protegee was interested in Mr. Knightely himself. This was unfathomable to her. If anything, she was in love with him and should be his natural partner, due to their longstanding affection and connection.

As for Mr. Knightley, he had been interested in her for a long time, but he had been a mentor to her for so long, it seemed impossible for him to make the transition to becoming a love interest. Not only that, but Emma seemed attached to another man who wound up marrying another woman. It was at that point that he realized he had to put it out there and tell her exactly how he felt. And thus, the movie ended with their happily ever after.

The 2009 Emma was the best at demonstrating Emma and Mr. Knightley’s friendship and attraction. Their dance scene in particular was swoonworthy: link. The actors were well matched, with Emma as a young and immature 21 year old and Mr. Knightley as a sober and responsible older man looking out for her. He urged her to grow up and be better.

The 2020 Emma was better at presenting Mr. Knightley as a tormented man tortured by his unrequited love and seething over his rival. Yet, he didn’t appear to be sixteen years older, even though the actor’s real age matched: link. He had the look of a young rock star.

So returning to my writing, I have to think of my characters as starring in a movie. What is happening in their scenes? How are things moving forward? What are the emotional stakes at play? How are they handling their attraction?

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

It’s Suzette’s Release Day on Amazon!

 

Amazon

Wedding Announcement:

Suzette laughed out loud when she read the wedding announcement in the local newspaper. She leaned over to show Bobby. “Who do you think sent it in?”

He took the newspaper from her and glanced at it quickly. “If your dad didn’t do it, he encouraged your mom to.”

“And silently chuckling as he watched her type it.”

His grinned. “I think you’re right.”

Suzette Nagel and Robert Sills

Eric and Yvonne Nagel of Newton Highlands, Massachusetts, are delighted to announce that their younger daughter Suzette married Robert Sills in July at Parish of the King in Auburndale. The bride will change her name.

Suzette recently graduated with a Master of Divinity from General Theological School in New York City and was ordained in June. Rev. Sills will serve as a curate at the Church of the Holy Redeemer on the Upper East Side.

Robert is an accountant with Langdon Associates in New York City. He is the older son of Gary and Colleen Sills of Sullivan County, New York.

Copyright Barbara James, all rights reserved.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

It’s Suzette’s day to shine. Her book is available on pre-order in e-book format on Amazon: link, and as usual, I have ordered my print copy of her book.

And when I got to the mailbox, she was there!

Book blurb:

Suzette Nagel never imagined Bobby Sills would show up at the church where she was serving. But there he was, agreeing to take her with him on a road trip from New York City to Virginia for the wedding of her best friend, Ayanna Pagdell, and Bobby’s brother, Todd.

Suzette thought Bobby, an accountant based in New York City, was pleasant, but cool and distant, while Bobby thought Suzette, a seminary graduate student from Massachusetts, wasn’t his type.

By the end of the weekend, they discovered more than they bargained for, an attraction they didn’t anticipate. Suzette found that Bobby was more on her wavelength than she ever imagined possible, while Bobby experienced a welcome relief from the cut throat dating scene in New York City.

But will family pressure for her to return home to Massachusetts after graduation force them apart?

 

 

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.

Happy New Year!

I hope your pile of books2019 was fantastic and that 2020 will be great as well.

So what have I been up to lately in my writing life? I haven’t been doing much reading, but much has been happening otherwise.

Ayanna is doing well. I’m happy to see that she is out in the world: link.

I just heard from the proofreader who read the draft of the latest work in progress. Suzette was a secondary character in Ayanna’s book, as was her hero, Bobby.

I’m looking forward to getting them ready for publication.

I presented Austin, the hero of my next work in progress about five months ago at a CIMRWA workshop that took place during the RWA conference in New York City. I blogged about what that felt like: link.

I imagined his book would be a novella, but he explained to me quite clearly that he was not going to be one. It was a full fledged novel he wanted. Since I’m his scribe, I have complied. So I have his latest draft which I’m working on.

The hero and heroine of the next book have been giving me snippets of their story. I think they want Austin to play a central role. That was clear to me when they kept showing up in Austin’s story.

So I have work to do.

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.