Inspiration is just a spark away.

The most asked question of a writer is ‘where do you get your ideas?’ The answer is both simple and difficult at the same time—everywhere!

Along with the stories I do for the Authors of Main Street boxed sets, I also write “not clean and wholesome” stories of ghost hunters, shapeshifters, and zombie apocalypses.

Most writers will tell you they have a ‘book of their heart,’ a book that just wrote itself, as if by magic, touched their hearts, brought tears to their eyes, and a happy sigh at the happily ever after at the end of the tale. For me, that is Dangerous Shift. Set in the near future, Dangerous Shift deals with issues of prejudice and preconceived notions of what it means to be human. When a doctor sees the shapeshifters as less than human, they have no problem creating an Extinction Level Event virus tailored to kill all shapeshifters.

In Dangerous Shift I have gender shifters. They can shift back and forth between male and female. I get asked (a lot) where the idea came from. I tell them–Jurassic Park.

I was watching the movie for the millionth time with my kids. We got to the scene where Dr. Grant is explaining about how the dinosaurs managed to reproduce when the scientists made them all female. He tells Tim and Lexie that some Amazon tree frogs can change sexes if there are too many of one gender or the other and the scientists used frog DNA to make the dinosaurs.

I was sitting there like, “Wow, too bad humans can’t do that.” It was like a light bulb went off in my head. “Wait, I write stories. I could write one where they could do that.”

Dangerous Shift, book 1 of the Shifters of San Laura series was born. I’m currently working on book 2, Stolen Shift. In the second book, a deadly virus has struck the world and taken out 90% of the children in the world aged 5 to 15 years old. An entire generation is gone. But not shapeshifter children.

If you lost your child, what would you pay to have them back? At least in appearance? Seems some people would pay a lot to have an identical copy.

Off to write!


Jill James, romance writer
author of Sugar Sprinkled Memories in the Christmas Cookies on Main Street boxed set.

My Scifi Movie Buddy

From the time I was watching black-and-white Buck Rodgers features on my TV as a kid,  I have loved science fiction movies and television shows-wires and cheesy special effects and all.

My parents divorced when I was 10 years old and my brother was 5. My dad got us every other weekend. With the hours he had worked, he didn’t know how to entertain us for a whole weekend. So, between the ages of 10 and 18 I must have seen every movie that came out. All the Bond movies, from Connery to Moore. An all-day viewing of all the Planet of the Apes movies in a little Berkeley movie house. Every movie Woody Allen made. I don’t think there is a horror movie of the ’70s I missed. LOL

Then in 1977 something magical happened. Star Wars. My brother and I saw it 35 times that summer, sometimes staying until after the credits to watch the next showing. I’ve tried over the years to explain to my children what Star Wars meant to science fiction fans. The special effects were so well done that you didn’t notice the special effects. You could be wrapped up in the story without looking for wires or noticing it was a model of a spaceship. When the landspeeder swept over the sands of Tatooine, you believed. When Luke and Leia swung over that infinity drop on the Star Destroyer, you held your breath. George Lucas, Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2D2 transported us to a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away and we’ve stayed there for 40+ years.

This week, I went with my scifi movie buddy, my son, now almost 30 years old to see the latest episode, The Rise of Skywalker. I cried at every familiar face. I laughed at the creatures that only existed in the writers minds until they appeared as if by magic on the screen. I was once more swept away to that galaxy far, far away.

I wasn’t at the movies. I was on an adventure to save the galaxy!

 


Jill James, romance writer and movie fan.

Don’t Delete That!

My full-length novel for the Christmas collection is titled Sugar Sprinkled Memories. But it didn’t start out with that title. It also didn’t start out with the same character names, locations, professions, or story line.

It started life as Books and Dreams. With Lyanne and Jake. In Wild Rose, California. With a used book store and a lawyer arguing over who owned the building. Okay, the arguing over the building stayed the same. LOL I know the basis of a romance novel when I see it.

Books and Dreams was my first completed manuscript. The one I used to get my PRO pin with Romance Writers of America (RWA). I shopped it around (in the days of trying to get an agent or editor.) And then it gathered mothballs on a floppy disk, and then a zip drive, and then a thumb drive. It moved with me from computer to computer to computer. Many times over the years (I wrote it in 2004) I was so determined to just delete it, reformat the thumb drive, wipe my computer clean. But something made me hold on to that first book I wrote.

Until The Authors of Main Street decided to do Christmas Cookies on Main Street.  It one of those light bulb moments that writers dream of, I realized that Books and Dreams was perfect for the set, I just had to rewrite it. No problem! Ha! I just had to change names and physical attributes. Check! Lyanne and Jake were now Maggie and Warren. I just had to change professions. Check! The used book store owner was now a bakery owner with a million changes to update running a business in 2019 instead of 2004, along with the differences of a bookstore and a bakery. hahahaha I just had to change locations because Wild Rose reminded me of  The Wild Rose Press and all my sweet romances for the boxed sets take place in Lake Willowbee. Check! And not quite as hard as deleting a subplot with actions not becoming of a sweet romance or being a heroic character. Hey, it was my first book and I didn’t know the rules yet! Rewriting the story itself was an amazing experience, to see where I got it right even as a newbie and to see where I was so wrong and had no idea what I was doing as a writer.

I’ve always believed that to move forward we have to look back and that is what I did with this book. The bones were all there, I just had to polish it up with the skill set I have now and make it shine. I had to see and believe that my first story was a diamond in the rough and I could make it a gem worthy of being in the Authors of Main Street Christmas collection. Fingers crossed!!!


Jill James, romance writer.

The Peanut Butter Airplane

In the fifth grade, Mrs. Whitaker would give us a title for the weekly story we had to write. Two of my favorites, that I still remember to this day, were The Runaway Chevrolet and The Peanut Butter Airplane. I guess even back then I needed a title to get going on a story.

We had to write at least two pages in our notebooks. No writing big. No repeating the same word for a whole sentence. I always wondered why my classmates complained all week about writing those two pages. By Monday night I had two pages and then some more, no problem at all. It is amazing how freeing writing is when you don’t know there are rules!

At least one time in the school year you had to stand in front of the class and read your story aloud. I was terrified. I didn’t want to go first and I didn’t want to leave it at the end and feel the pressure. I tried to time it so some people had read their stories but everyone wasn’t bored after hearing half a dozen of them with the very same title on a late Friday afternoon.

I so wish I still had that composition book from the fifth grade. Everyone read their stories of planes made of peanut butter. Obviously, even at ten my imagination didn’t work that way. Maybe one or two of them became fantasy writers. LOL My peanut butter airplane delivered peanut butter to starving children all around the world. See, even then I wanted a happily ever after.

Thank you, Mrs. Katherine Whitaker for opening up my mind with just a quirky, little title. Thank you for believing storytelling was just as important as math and science.

Do you remember a favorite story from childhood?


Jill James, writer

Sugar Sprinkled Memories coming soon in the
Authors of Main Street Christmas boxed set.

Get Started

 

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.   –Mark Twain

 

 

In October I gear up for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) 50,000 words in 30 days in November. Just like I talked about last month on this blog, I’m trying to step outside my comfort zone in life and in my writing. For Nanowrimo this year I’ll be working on a women’s fiction story–a first for me. I love writing romance but this idea just came to me. I’ve written the first hundred or so words to get the idea started, but it will be my project for Nanowrimo. The title is That Moment. It is about two women, best friends all their lives. One commits suicide and the other is left to wonder where her friend’s life went so wrong. Was there a That Moment that would have sent her friend on a different path? A different direction that would have set everything right? And, if she could change it, would she? Should she?


(unedited, first draft)

From monumental to mundane. From beautiful to banal. Each moment of your life is ‘that moment.’ That moment when you make a decision. A decision to stay home with your family on the perfect September day and not go to work at the World Trade Center. A decision to not call in sick because you’re out of sick days and a psycho decides today, he will show the boss he won’t be pushed around anymore. A simple decision to go on that blind date and maybe meet your soul mate—or not. An easy decision to have beef or chicken for dinner.

Each decision you make is a pebble thrown in the smooth, glassy surface of the lake of your life. From a boulder creating a splash and setting ripples inside ripples across the pond to a skipping stone making ripples lost before they are gone and out of sight. Only, they aren’t gone, just out of your sight. They still touch the sandy beach across the water, the barely-hanging-on tree with its exposed roots grasping the muddy bank, the sweep around the bend, hidden behind the trees.

Every decision doesn’t just affect you. Just watch It’s a Wonderful Life to see how one person affects so many more. Most of us will never know if a ripple of a decision will affect someone else. But . . . sometimes we do.

Chapter 1

Shelly is dead. Would my best friend have still killed herself if she’d known the ripples of that decision would rip open time and space? Would she still have done it if she’d known it would rip my heart out? Would she still have done it if she’d known what I would do to make it right?’ Funny thing about time and space. You just don’t know. Until you do.

Shelly Benedict killed herself on a Wednesday. Did she know that made it easy for me to plan her funeral by Saturday? Knowing Shelly like I did, I’m sure she did. Just like she calculated how many pills it would take to never wake up, I’m sure my best friend wanted to make it as easy as possible for me. That was Shelly.

God knows, she didn’t make life easy for herself. If there was a poster child for every way your life could suck, it was Shelly. It sucked right up to and including her funeral. How can you live fifty years on this planet and have four ex-husbands, six children, your parents still alive, and your best friend is the only person at your funeral?

Wait, I take that back. The only person besides the minister who didn’t know Shelly and the men waiting for me to leave so they can finish their job. It hurt. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to see the clear blue sky and the gentle sun on that May morning. It hurt to know my best friend was gone and no one cared but me.

I tried from when we were teenagers until her last day on Earth to tell Shelly and show Shelly, she was the person I saw her to be. None of it sank in. Her life became a series of What If? questions.

What if her parents had loved her for the person she was? What if she’d had some self-esteem and didn’t fall for every loser on the planet? What if she hadn’t let her children abuse her just as much as their fathers had? What if she’d cared for herself, just a little?


How do you get motivated to just get started?

Jill James, author of Sugar Sprinkled Memories/Christmas 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In (Out) My Comfort Zone

I’m most comfy in my sweats and at the computer. But every once in a while I have to step out of my comfort zone and do stuff that is on the top of my non-comfort list.

Like flying on an airplane! By myself! So not my favorite thing to do. I get an anxiety attack. What gate am I supposed to be at? What time is my flight? What are the rules for security?

I had to do this once before so I’m getting better. But still, not my favorite thing to do. When I was a little kid, flying on an airplane was exciting, adventurous, and fun. The seats were wide and the legroom was enormous. The food was served on china and the salt and pepper were tiny little crystal containers. Flying somewhere was an event with ladies in hats and gloves and shiny shoes. Men in suits. Now, we’re packed in like cattle and told not to complain while we remove everything just to check in.

But, I will step out of my comfort zone and fly in an airplane to see my high school friend I haven’t seen in 30 years, give or take.

By the time you are reading this post I will be back from my journey to Seattle!


What is outside your comfort zone?


Jill James, romance writer and reluctant traveler.

My First

Romance novel. hahahaha.

I was about 12 or 13 when my mom bought me this romance novel. It was from Avon (the perfume company) and came with a tiny bottle of perfume to match the title. In this case, Lily of the Valley by Margaret Rome.

I loved the story. The hero was blinded in an accident and is recuperating at a hospital. He convinces his nurse that he wants to marry her—thinking she is homely and won’t mind being married to a blind man. Hey, it was the ’70s and I guess that plotline sold. LOL

It had it all. Vindictive ex-girlfriend, annoying brother who points out that the heroine is actually quite beautiful, jealous ex-girlfriend who tries to sabotage his marriage and get him back, hurt feelings, sadness, true love at the end, along with a hero who is cured and can see the woman he has grown to love. Again, it was the ’70s. Romance novels had heroes who don’t seem so heroic today, who could hurt the woman they professed to love until true love opened their eyes (literally) and made them better men for the woman they loved.

As I’ve matured, I hope my choice of romance reading has matured, as well. I like my heroes to be heroic, even if a little clueless at the beginning, thinking they don’t need love. I want to believe they will grow as characters and men and deserve the heroine, who by the end of the story shows them that love is as necessary as the air we breathe, the water we drink, the shelter we need from the storm. I want the heroine to turn a man who may be rough around the edges into a prince of a guy. I need to believe he will do that to be worthy of her. That the idea of life without her is lonely and meaningless.

So, back to that book at the beginning of my post. For the beginner teen I was when I got the book, it was my first taste of a romance novel and I loved it. Fleur and Alain fueled many dreams of romance. Thanks, Mom. Because without that book and the thousands that followed, I wouldn’t be a romance writer today.

Do you remember your first romance novel?


 

Jill James, author of Sugar Sprinkled Memories