Tag Archives: Jeffe Kennedy

The Perils of Writing Tribute Characters

Going Under CoverBy Jeffe Kennedy

My new novel-length erotic romance, Going Under, comes out on Monday, so I’ve been doing a lot of interviews and so forth, getting ready for that promo push. One question I get a lot is whether I’ve based my characters on anyone real, or who I know.

I try to give this a thoughtful answer, because I understand that readers are really interested in this idea. Characters feel real to us, so we always wonder, on some level, if they somehow are real. So I don’t give them my immediate, heartfelt answer.

NO.

Never.

No way.

Not that I feel strongly about this or anything…

Okay, I do. I feel strongly about anything that gets in the way of the story. In my mind, the story should always reign supreme. All decisions should be about whether or not [X] makes the story better. While I suppose it’s possible to base a character on a real person and still make decisions based on the betterment of the story, I think this is akin to getting back together with an old lover and kidding yourself that what happened to break you up before doesn’t matter.

It’s not really about what you’re thinking now, but about all that emotion underneath, driving you when you’re not really aware of it.

See, truly basing a character on a real person is nearly always driven by the desire to somehow memorialize that person, or otherwise work out persistent emotions tied to them. Usually intense ones. I’ve had several author friends who’ve wanted to do this – usually for someone close to them who died – and it just never works out well. The need to “serve” that person bogs down every other choice. Decisions are no longer about what’s best for the story, but about that person.

Worse, it just never works out. Because, really, it’s impossible to fully memorialize a complex human being by turning them into a character. No matter our characterization skills, no matter the nobility of the motivation, a character in a book can never be as fully realized as an actual human being. We’ll always fall short in some way.

Then both the effort and the story have suffered.

For me, characters come together more like Method actors do it – by drawing on fragments of my own experiences. In this way, we can access pieces of people we know, pulling in those traits, thoughts, experiences or moments that we hold precious. But then the character becomes someone new, someone who is no longer that tribute character we tried to resurrect in fiction.

Better that they rest in peace.

Author Services – Watching Out for the Predators

The Mark of the Tala by Jeffe Kennedy

This is my big excitement for the week – a friend spotting my new book in Minneapolis-St. Paul, right next to Guy Gavriel Kay. Funny how these little joys make it all so fun.

Because, we all know that getting our books published and out there doesn’t always bring joy and fun. Far from being the Golden Ticket that transforms our lives and brings us Eternal Happiness, publication brings a new set of problems. Once we get over the shock of this revelation, it makes total sense. After all, life is like this. Any grown-up knows it. Each new step, every new phase brings its own joys and sorrows. The trick is to manage the sorrows and savor the joys.

One of the biggest discoveries that publication brings to most is that it doesn’t pay all that well. Especially to begin with.

It’s part of the mythology of the author – that it’s a career guaranteed to bring in wealth. Maybe we believe this because we hear the book deal numbers for those high-profile authors. We see the JK Rowlings, the Stephenie Meyers and the James Pattersons making literal fortunes and extrapolate that to all writers. Again, once we get a grip on the reality, it makes total sense. Really in no profession does anyone make the CEO salary when they’re at entry level. Any grown-up knows this. We figure out how to manage our expectations and move on.

What’s difficult to manage is the expectations of other people. Especially the predators and parasites.

I’m seeing more of them than ever. I think this is because of the boom in self-publishing, with so many high-profile voices publishing their sales figures, trumpeting their financial success. (How prevalent that success is would be a whole ‘nother discussion. Suffice to say, I think a small percentage still makes the really high dollars.) Like coyote populations expanding after a boom in bunny rabbit births, like mushrooms after a rainy summer, “Author Services” are popping up everywhere.

I can think of five people offhand who’ve started businesses as author assistants or ebook formatters in the last six months. Several times a week – sometimes several times a day – I receive “offers” for some kind of service meant to help me write or sell books. I see notices of new followers on Twitter that are book publicists, publishers, cover designers, author assistants – you name it.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing.

But I think it’s not always a good thing, Certainly not for all authors.

Sure, it’s great that these services are out there, if you need them. If you can afford them. But there’s increasing competition for the prey. Once there are more coyotes than the bunny population can sustain, the coyotes start to get hungry. These folks are getting hungry. Which means they need to convince more authors that their services are not only necessary, but crucial to success.

They can instill panic. DO THIS OR YOUR BOOK WILL FAIL.

I’ve seen it.

So, my point is – beware of author “services.” They might be very nice people, with great stuff to offer, but you’re not necessarily their cash cow. They figure you can afford it. That you are the wellspring of wealth, with so much that it could spill over onto them. Most of us – particularly early in our careers – simply can’t afford that outlay. Most of us have day jobs for that reason. If you can’t afford it, don’t feel pressured into ponying up for it.

Services are lovely to have and they can help us out. But they’re luxuries, not necessities.

The RT Booklovers Convention – Why You Should Be There

The Mark of the Tala

The Mark of the Tala (The Twelve Kingdoms #1) Out May 27!

By Jeffe Kennedy

Today is the opening day of the RT Booklovers Convention, taking place in New Orleans this year.

And yes – I’m there! The question is, why aren’t you?

I’m guessing you’ll say “because I don’t write romance.” I’ve been hearing this a lot lately, on various forums. Usually framed in terms of “While I have romantic elements in my books, I really write more fantasy/science fiction/mystery/suspense/horror, so it’s not a good convention for me.”

But that’s where people have it wrong.

Yes, RT Book Reviews and the reader convention they sponsor, started out life as the Romantic Times Magazine. However, several years ago they rebranded to simply “RT” to convey that they review, spotlight and promote far more than romance. In the magazine’s genre index, you can see that they review books in 16 genres – only 4 of them romance.

They reviewed my May fantasy release, The Mark of the Tala, gave it the highest number of stars and a “Top Pick!” (The online listing is delayed several months after the paper magazine comes out, so it’s not web-accessible yet.) This is a huge boost for this book, and my new series, as they’ll feature and promote it.

The convention itself is huge, attracting enthusiastic readers from all over – including internationally. Booksellers and librarians attend, as do foreign rights buyers. A giant book fair and FAN-tastic day parties on the weekend are thrown open to the public. Publishers sponsor events, too. Among other things, I’ll be riding on a float in a parade, helping man a Bananas Foster dessert station at Pat O’Briens during the Pub Crawl, and cavorting at the Harlequin Dance Party.

There are also plenty of editors and agents in attendance, for those writers aspiring to find new opportunities.

All in all, it’s a terrific convention for meeting readers, networking with industry professionals and having fun with fellow authors.

Something to think about for next year!

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial

Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns;  the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, including the newest, Five Golden Rings, which came out as part of the erotic holiday anthology, Season of Seduction, in late November; and a  contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, will hit the shelves starting in May 2014. A spin-off story from this series, Negotiation, appears in the recently-released Thunder on the Battlefield anthology.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

Meet Kerri Buckley, Carina Press Editor

As part of our series to introduce everyone to our Colorado Gold Conference guests, I caught Carina Press editor Kerri Buckley for an informal chat.

Jeffe: Hi Kerri! Thanks for being here on the RMFW blog today!

Kerri: And thanks so much for having me. I’m getting so excited for the conference!

Jeffe: So are we!

Jeffe: I know that you’re an editor at Carina Press, but what IS your job exactly?

Kerri: Heh. You won’t be able to see it in the log of this conversation, but there was just a loooong pause on my end.

Jeffe: lol

Kerri: So I am an in-house editor at Carina Press—the first one, under Editorial Director Angela James. This means that I acquire and edit books for the Carina Press line. I work across genres and average 2-3 titles a month, publication-wise. That’s my primary role. Beyond that, because I am in-house, I also do things like sit on the acquisition board where we review and evaluate projects. I work with marketing, publicity, sub rights, PR, and production on a daily basis. I write a lot of back cover copy. All to build our authors, position them correctly, and keep growing the line!

Jeffe: And, though you’re newish to Carina, you’re not new to the industry, right?

Kerri: Correct. I’ve been in publishing for what seems like forever, lol. I started as an intern at The Feminist Press (@CUNY) when I was in college and then was accepted into Random House‘s Associates Program when I graduated—that’s like a post-grad year in publishing. (But they pay you!) From there, I became an editorial assistant at Bantam Dell and stayed at Random House, in one imprint or another, for the next 8 years. I joined Carina in May of 2013.

So, full disclosureI took what I call “a sabbatical” from publishing after those 8 years at Random House. I wrote copy, I traveled a lot, I dabbled in some other industries. But I knew it wasn’t right. I knew I needed to come back to books…eventually.

AND! While I was gone? The landscape changed pretty dramatically. It was clear to me that digital was the place to be. It was an area I hadn’t really worked in before, but when I started to look around and see what was working, who was growing—I saw I needed to be in digital.

So that’s where I started, as I was looking and formulating a re-entry plan.

Jeffe: I love that – “a re-entry plan,” like you were out in orbit, returning to Earth.

Kerri: That Carina was hiring at that time was the luckiest thing that ever happened, actually. And that I loved their/our editorial? Fated? Mebbe.

Carina was the first digital-first line to come from a major house. They were AHEAD of the game and so already working when others were still sort of getting set up. I’m adventurous but I’m not crazy. I wanted to go with the winner.

Jeffe: What a great story!

So, why do you come to conferences like Colorado Gold?

Kerri: Personally? I love the atmosphere of cons. It’s like spending a few days among your truest people.

Professionally? Attending cons like Colorado Gold is a HUGE part of Carina’s business plan. It’s an opportunity to find brilliant new writers, a chance to explain who we are and what we do to an audience that’s interested. The author experience is #1 to us, and that experience often starts with an initial meeting—at a conference.

Jeffe: You really DO want to meet and talk to authors?

Kerri: Oh, I do. I actually love pitch sessions. Can’t get enough of them, seriously. It’s exhilarating for me. Kind of like speed dating. I’m always expecting the next pitch to be THE ONE.

Jeffe: Like falling in love?

Kerri: Exactly.

And there are always at least a few crushes.

But also in an informal setting…a lot happens at conferences. Wine is ingested. Ideas are shared. Introductions are made. It’s energizing!

Jeffe: We always hear the stories about the manuscript slid under the bathroom stall door – is that real?

Kerri: That has never happened to me. I kind of wish it had.

Jeffe: I’ve often wondered if that’s an urban myth.

Kerri: On the other hand, there are some VERY, VERY successful books that have come out of conferences.

Jeffe: In fact, Kat Latham who just got nominated for a RITA for her Carina book pitched at a conference.

Kerri: Sure did. Isn’t that exciting?

Jeffe: Very exciting—so happy for her and Eleri Stone, our other Carina RITA finalist! Okay, so be honest – because this is confusing for writers – how should people talk to you, outside of pitch sessions?

Kerri: It must be confusing!

Jeffe: Nobody wants to do the wrong and horrible thing, you know?

Kerri: Yes, for me PERSONALLY it is absolutely okay to come and chat outside of pitch sessions. I just ask that we stick to the general rules of society.

If I’m in the middle of a conversation…maybe wait until I’m done?

If I’m clearly running somewhere frantically (this happens a lot—watch out!) maybe try and catch me later?

Other than that, fair game. I’m a talker.

Jeffe: That’s great to know!

Kerri: Oh, I will offer a tip, actually.

Jeffe: We love tips!

Kerri: And this applies to cons in general. Having an “elevator pitch” about your book is enormously useful. Not a script—I don’t want to talk to a robot—but just a 2-3 minute nutshell description of what you’re working on, why it’s awesome, why you love it.

Jeffe: Often the advice is to memorize your pitch.

Kerri: For a formal pitch session, okay, that works, but for the on-the-fly convos? I don’t want to hear your pitch. You should have signed up for a pitch if you wanted to play that way. I want to *talk*—but also to understand pretty easily what you’re working on.

Jeffe: Fortunately talking about books is our favorite thing!

Kerri: me too!

Jeffe: The conference is six months away—what can writers be doing between now and then to prepare?

Kerri: Keep working on your WIPs, so you’ve got the best possible version in your mind that weekend.

Jeffe: Do they HAVE to be totally done by then?

Kerri: They do not. I will say that when we’re considering work by a new author, most of the time we will want to review a full manuscript. So we might talk about it in Colorado, but I’ll ask for you to hold off sending until you’ve got a full.

Jeffe: Do you ever give feedback in pitch sessions, about how the story might be improved?

Kerri: Yes, all the time. And I try to be nice about it.

Jeffe: I’m sure you are – I can’t imagine you being mean.

Kerri: Oh, I’m a softie. But I can imagine being on the other side of that table. Who wants to hear the editor lady say they got something wrong? No one. So generally what I’ll do is ask you a bunch of questions—why’d heroine do this? What’s hero’s motivation? HOW DOES IT END? And then I’ll throw out a few ideas.

Jeffe: Do you ever talk about a book being in a dead genre?

Kerri: Genre is a tough conversation to have. Although I’ll never say one is “dead”—just maybe… “not on the upswing right now.”

Everything in publishing is cyclical. Look at Romantic Suspense! It was “not on the upswing” for a couple years—now back with a vengeance. In fact, we’re looking for a series to build at Carina .

Jeffe: Very exciting news for the RS authors out there!

I know you have your wish list, as all the Carina editors do, but is there anything you’re really hoping someone will pitch?

Kerri: Yes. I have a few updates to that wish list.

a) An Army Wives-style drama with *multiple* romantic arcs—Contemporary, please. I have been dying for this. b) Multicultural or PoC (Person of Color) New Adult.

c) I’m a total Eastern Europe nerd and I’ve been searching for THE Russian- or Polish-set novel for what seems like half my career. Could be mystery, could be contemporary, could be Romantic Suspense.

Jeffe: So, Carina is a Harlequin imprint—do the books have to be romance?

Kerri: No, they do not.

We publish mystery, crime, scifi, fantasy, action/adventure. We do not require genre fiction books such as mystery, science fiction, and fantasy to have romantic elements. We read, acquire and publish nonromance with no romantic elements, as well! If you have a mystery, science fiction or fantasy manuscript that has no romantic elements, we want to see it.

What we are not publishing, because there are other imprints at Harlequin who do, and because every imprint needs to have a focus: thrillers, horror, women’s fiction, faith-based or inspirational fiction, nonfiction.

Jeffe: Lots of opportunities for our fiction writers, it sounds like!

Kerri: Indeed.

Jeffe: Anything else you want people to know?

Kerri: I will add that mystery, in particular, is an area we are focusing on for growth in 2014-2015.

Jeffe: Any particular kind of mystery?

Kerri: Oh, everything from cozy/amateur sleuth to high-octane. Personally, I tend toward the offbeat. I like quirky PIs, cranky cops, wackadoo agents—character-driven mysteries, I suppose you could say.

Jeffe: Sounds great!

Kerri: I think so. It’s a fun hunt.

Thanks so much for taking the time to give folks a sneak-peek for the Colorado Gold Conference, Kerri! I’m sure everyone will be excited to meet and talk with you there.

Work Management

I started off my February post here by mentioning I’d been busy lately. In fact, I had to check because I started off this post in almost the exact same way.

Oops.

However, it’s less me running in the same rut than that things haven’t really let up yet. Happily, last Friday I finished the draft of Rogue’s Paradise, which is due to my editor 3/15. It’s out with the crit partners (CPs) right now. Once I finished that, I turned to line edits on Going Under. My editor asked for those by 3/9 and I negotiated for 3/12. Those are almost done and need just one more pass – something I’ll do as soon as I complete this post. Then I’ll turn to polishing Rogue’s Paradise, using the approach I detailed in my November post, Easy Steps to Polish that Draft, and incorporating comments from my CPs.

Amusingly (and with perfect timing), another editor sent the developmental edits for The Tears of the Rose, that second Twelve Kingdoms  book I mentioned in that polishing post – and those arrived Friday afternoon, hours after I finished Paradise. (I was dreading the eventuality that those edits would arrive before I had the opportunity to clear my head space of these other two books.) The other aspect of this auspicious timing is that I can do the edits on Tears and then go straight into writing book 3 of that trilogy, The Talon of the Hawk, which is due 6/1.

Thankfully, also, the sixth and final episode of my serial novel, Master of the Opera, comes out 3/20 – so my promo efforts for that will be over. Gives me a bit of breathing room before the 5/27 release of the first Twelve Kingdoms book, The Mark of the Tala.

See what I mean?

But I took the weekend to chill. We drove to Tucson for my mother’s birthday and I spent a lot of time hanging out, chatting, and reading for pleasure. My mom worried that I was tired and I was. But the rest helped and now I’m ready to get back at it. She wanted me to take it easier than I am.

I can’t.

That’s the thing about deadlines. If you don’t work on stuff, it doesn’t go away. It just stacks up and makes the work even more difficult later. Yes – in the future I’ll make sure not to stack my writing deadlines together so tightly. For now, however, I need to get through them, and keep myself sane and healthy while doing so.

My husband pointed out to me that the issue isn’t time management. Earl Nightingale takes the position that the concept of “time management” is worthless because time is beyond our control. Time flows as it flows, whether we attempt to manage that or not.

What IS within our control is the work we do. That is, I need to manage the work within the time that I have. One solution, I’ve decided, with the man’s input, is to resist the urge to multitask. One thing at a time. And when I rest, I rest. An hour or two of solid relaxation is far better than five hours of working social media while answering emails and watching a movie.

That’s my plan. Anyone else have good suggestions for work management?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial

Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns;  the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, including the newest, Five Golden Rings, which came out as part of the erotic holiday anthology, Season of Seduction, in late November; and a  contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, will hit the shelves starting in May 2014. A spin-off story from this series, Negotiation, appears in the recently-released Thunder on the Battlefield anthology.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

Why Time Off Isn’t Time Lost

Literary Agent, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, writing, writers life, publishingby Jeffe Kennedy

I’ve been pushing hard lately.

“Lately” meaning about the last year and a half. I’ve talked about it a fair amount on my personal blog and on a panel or two. Mainly what happened was that I signed with an agent, who was fabulous enough to get me several book deals, and I ended up scheduling myself with a novel deadline about every three months.

What with a full-time, career-type job, it’s been a bit tight.

Not that I mind! My new mantra is “Good Problems To Have.”

*goodproblemstohave* *goodproblemstohave* *goodproblemstohave*

What it’s meant for my daily life is that I’ve been writing in the neighborhood of 2,000 words a day. In 2013 I wrote just shy of 500,000 words. 2,821 words short, to be exact. Which kind of burned my ass to miss that milestone by so little, but my stepson got married on New Year’s Eve and I needed to be part of that.

And, really, it didn’t matter. My overall effort mattered. A round number is prettier, but ultimately meaningless.

The last ten days have been a mess for me. I traveled for my day job to do a weekend-long training session. Very intensive, no time to write. I was able to get through the galley proofs of my book coming out in May, The Mark of the Tala, but that was pretty much it. Upon my return, I got hit with developmental edits for Going Under, the first book in my new erotic romance trilogy. As we all know, editing is nothing like producing word count.

Then my agent, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, pictured above on the left with my friend, aspiring writer Anna Philpot, came to visit for four days. She spoke to my local RWA chapter in New Mexico. We had a great time and had many excellent conversations about trends in the industry and my career, all important stuff.

But I got nothing done. Nothing *writing* done, that is.

So, today I’m back at it, staring at the next novel deadline of March 15. On one hand, it feels like I lost time. My spreadsheet certainly thinks so, with my blinking counter showing me I’m over a week behind on my predicted progress. On the other, however, I’m feeling rejuvenated.

It’s counter-intuitive, because I’ve been going pretty much non-stop. The key, however, is that I haven’t been drafting. I’ve been learning new things and talking to people, going to fun places and *gasp* socializing.

Turns out it was good for me.

While my spreadsheets and I tend to believe that real progress is measured only by those steadily increasing word count numbers, that’s simply not true. Many steps forward are intangible and can be measured only by the long-term results. That training for the day job gave me a certification for instructional design that I can use for teaching writing workshops, too. Spending that extensive time with Pam has given me much food for thought and a better idea of how to chart my future.

Time well-used.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial

Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns;  the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, including the newest, Five Golden Rings, which came out as part of the erotic holiday anthology, Season of Seduction, in late November; and a  contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, will hit the shelves starting in May 2014. A spin-off story from this series, Negotiation, appears in the recently-released Thunder on the Battlefield anthology.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

Dancing Away that Author Envy

by Jeffe Kennedy

On one of my author loops recently, a number of people were gnashing teeth over their lack of success in the publishing world. From the publisher declining to publish the rest of the books in their series, to poor sales, to perceived favoritism for “special” authors – they felt they’d gotten a raw deal.

Okay, first of all, I haven’t met a published author who doesn’t feel this way–privately.

Everybody has gotten a raw deal from a publisher at some point. Editors that left them orphaned. Two-book contracts that let the publisher decline Book 3, thus leaving the intended trilogy hanging. Inexplicable decisions not to market, to reduce print runs, to pimp other authors.

And like all things in life, there is always always always someone who seems to be getting a MUCH better deal than you are.

Usually someone who doesn’t deserve it nearly as much as you do, right?

Right.

So it goes.

The thing is, you gotta watch the perception of others. This goes for pre-published or self-publishing authors, too. How readers – and this includes other authors – see you, your books and your career is profoundly important. If an author says, “you should buy my book because my sales have been terrible and I really need the money,” he or she might get a few sympathy sales, but most people are going to think “what’s wrong with the book that no one is buying it?”

Hell, *I* think that, knowing full well that many seriously wonderful books go unnoticed for no good reason. It’s human nature. People want to like what other people like.

Back when I was in college, I was a member of a sorority. Stop your knee-jerking there – my sorority was an amazing group of women, many of whom are still friends. We sponsored and attended parties and dances regularly. We probably had 4-5 dances each academic year and one of our missions was to make sure that every one of our sisters had a date to the dance. No dancer left behind, or some such. We made sure everyone would be included.

(And sure, some of these gals were lesbians, but for the dances everyone liked to have a boy partner. Also, this was the 80s, so really no one was out of the closet. At least, not enough for formal events.)

Now, this should come as no surprise to anyone, but most guys like to date the gals that the other guys think are hot. We’ve seen this phenomenon over and over. It probably works the other direction, too, but I really saw this in action finding my sisters (and myself!) dates for the dances. Some of the women just didn’t date much. Mainly because they just never had. In my eyes, they were perfectly attractive, obviously intelligent because it was a smart school, and without socially-damming habits. But, when I’d ask a male friend to be Neglected Nancy’s date, his first question inevitably was, “What’s wrong with her?”

Because the very fact that she had no date meant that something had to be wrong.

Nearly as inevitable would be the follow-up question, “How about Hot Susie? I’ll go with her!”

And, of course, Hot Susie would have a date. She *always* had a date, which was part of what made her Hot Susie. Was this fair? No. Was it even based on anything real? Maybe. Hot Susie likely fit the beauty standard better. She might have been more practiced at flirting. But most of all, she was HOT SUSIE.

There were certain guys, ones we usually referred to as a “great guy,” who would escort Neglected Nancy to the dance and have fun doing it. After that, the other guys would be more willing to be her date. It just took a little time for the “what’s wrong with her?” stigma to fall away.

All of this is a roundabout way of reflecting on the nature of popularity.

Why are some seemingly lousy books bestsellers when other really fine ones barely see the light of day?

*shrugs*

If we knew this, everyone would write a bestseller. (Which, by the way, is why I distrust the books and classes on how to write a bestseller – if the author/teacher knows, why aren’t they doing it?)

It’s also true that some books and authors take time to build an audience. Twenty-five years later, many of our Neglected Nancy’s are doing much better than the Hot Susie’s, for a variety of reasons. This is why we should be wary of envying someone else’s seeming good fortune – we never know what trials they face that we don’t see.

Finally, to extend the analogy, find and take care of those “great guys.” The readers who love your books and tell other people about them.

Have fun.

Dance all night.

Hard to gnash your teeth while dancing up a storm.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial

Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns;  the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, including the newest, Five Golden Rings, which came out as part of the erotic holiday anthology, Season of Seduction, in late November; and a  contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, will hit the shelves starting in May 2014. A spin-off story from this series, Negotiation, appears in the recently-released Thunder on the Battlefield anthology.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

Writers Are Artists Too!

When I was a beginning writer, lo these many moons ago, I applied for and received a Fellowship and Residency from the Ucross Foundation.

This was a huge thing for me. For the Residency, I spent two weeks with a private room and a vast studio with no clocks and people there to feed me. For lunch, a delivery elf would creep silently and leave an insulated bag outside my studio door. Because I could not be disturbed. Because ART!

For dinner, all the residents gathered at a big table and ate gourmet meals while we discussed our days. Because the residencies are given to all kinds of artists – musicians, painters, composers, photographers, writers – the conversation covered broad topics, always stimulating and delightful.

Best of all, everyone there treated me like someone special. It was the first time in my life that people introduced me as a Writer. When you’re a rank beginner, this labeling is profoundly validating. I wasn’t just another wannabe, making noises about writing a novel someday, to be patted on the head and indulged. No, I was a Writer and there to Write.

The feeling has remained with me always.

Just last month, I was invited to a reception at Raymond Plank’s home here in  Santa Fe. That’s him in the center of the photo above. He recently came out with a memoir about creating the Ucross Foundation, called A Small Difference. The party was held in his honor, and because the foundation board was in town for their annual meeting. Then there were the previous Fellows scattered throughout the party, fairly easily distinguished from the donors and board members.

I wanted to meet as many of the Fellows as I could. Even after four years in Santa Fe, I don’t really feel like part of the literary community here. I’m told there IS one, but it feels thin to me. Ironically, my former community in Laramie, Wyoming, felt much denser and richer.

Maybe because we were so much more concentrated into a small space.

Santa Fe, for all its devotion to the aesthetics of art and beauty, does not really favor the writerly types. One of my writer friends calls it the Vast Siberian Literary Wasteland and it can feel that way, for sure. Visual arts rule here.

So, there I was, introducing myself, doing the tail-sniffing thing – who are you, what is your art – and every single Fellow I met was some sort of visual or earth-related artist. It became clear that I was the only writer there. One of the earth-artists patted me on the arm and said, “Hey, writers are artists, too!”

I had to laugh.

But that was the lesson I learned from that Residency, that came back to me going to the party. I am a Writer.

And that means something.

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Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency.  A contemporary e-Serial, Master of the Opera, will be released in January. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, will hit the shelves in 2014. A spin-off story from this series, Negotiation, appears in the recently-released Thunder on the Battlefield anthology. Her newest book, Five Golden Rings, came out as part of the erotic holiday anthology, Season of Seduction, in late November.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

Easy Steps to Polish That Draft!

by Jeffe Kennedy

November 1st signaled the start of a month of intense novel writing for many people: the onset of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.

For me, it was Deadline Day for the second book in my Twelve Kingdoms trilogy. I pulled it tighter than I’d like. I finished the draft by mid-September and let it “cool” for two weeks, while I worked on developmental edits for the first book in the series. That worked out great, because I finished revising book 1 and went straight into revising book 2. Terrific opportunity to check my continuity and tighten the overall series arc.

From there it took 18 days to finish that revision – longer than I’d wanted, for reasons that aren’t clear to me. It just went slowly. That meant I got the manuscript to my critique partners (CPs) on October 16. Amazingly, they have lives and deadlines of their own, so I didn’t get comments from them until October 30. (Although they did send notes in the interim, telling me that it was awesome and they’d have no major issues – always a relief to hear.)

All of this means I spent a LOT of time on the 31st and 1st, incorporating their comments and doing my final polish. I have a list, actually, (which should surprise no one who knows me) of stuff to check for before I send the manuscript to my editor. It looks like this:

  1. Search for []
  2. Search for “now”
  3. Search for “just”
  4. Search for double space
  5. Search for “like”
  6. Search for “back”
  7. Wordle
  8. Replace towards with toward
  9. Search for actions as dialogue tags.
  10. Search for overused dialogue tags.

These are tailored specifically for Jeffe’s Writing Tics – the bad habits that creep into my writing. Everyone needs to learn their own tics. Mine are most frequently “now” and “just.” As in, “just kill me now.” The [ ] are because, when I’m drafting, I sometimes place [words] in brackets to check later. It’s usually when I can’t think of the word I want, or if I need to go online to research something – which I’m not allowed to do while drafting or revising. The final search is to make sure I got them all.

With “now,” you’ll see from my note above that I used it 280 times in 382 pages. That’s not nearly as badly as I’ve done on other books. I note the page numbers, then try to break up the clusters. I’m funny that way – I’ll go six pages without using it, then sprinkle four on one page. Searching for “just,” I found 215 instances – not too bad! But I deleted or altered 134 of them.

Double spaces tend to creep in, so I do a quick s/r (search and replace) for those. “Back” is another of my tics – 244 occurrences were trimmed by 115. This time around “like” turned out to be the monster in the closet. 403 instances! I killed 129 of those.

Wordle: UntitledThen I check Wordle. If you don’t know it, it’s a fun – and effective! – way to check for overused words. Here’s mine for this book (post-polishing), if you want to see. In my first iteration, “know” popped up pretty ENORMOUS. I did a search for it and ended up eliminating 107 of 270 occurrences. It’s still pretty big, but at least no longer dominates.

The rest are pretty self-explanatory. I add to the list as time goes on – especially if one of my editors gets cranky about something. One of my editors has fits over me using actions as dialogue tags. Not that I can’t, but I tend to punctuate them wrong and, while she corrects them, she worries we’ll miss some. Fair enough.

I tweeted some of these as I was working, especially the phrase found in my “like” search that made me want to pound my forehead on the keyboard. The editor waiting for this book chimed in.

I loved his hashtag.  And, I thought, he’s right. So I decided to share with all of you, too.

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Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency.  A contemporary e-Serial, Master of the Opera, will be released in January. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, will hit the shelves in 2014. A spin-off story from this series, Negotiation, appears in the recently-released Thunder on the Battlefield anthology. Her newest book, Five Golden Rings, comes out as part of the erotic holiday anthology, Season of Seduction, in late November.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

 

Rogue’s Possession Release!

by Jeffe Kennedy

This is release week for me!

The second book in my Covenant of Thorns trilogy, Rogue’s Possession, came out from Carina Press on Monday. This is my first sequel – the continuing story of the adventures started in Rogue’s Pawn – and it’s been a whole new, thrilling experience to have readers excited for the release. Already the book has been listed on October “Must Have” lists and early ratings on Goodreads have it at a perfect five stars.

(Of course, that’s from four, die-hard fans and I don’t expect it to last, but for now it’s all pretty and pristine.)

For those interested, a bit of a blurb:
A human trapped in the world of Faerie, in possession of magic I could not control, I made a bargain for my life: to let the dangerously sensual fae noble known as Rogue sire my firstborn. And one does not break an oath with a fae. But no matter how greatly I desire him, I will not succumb. Not until I know what will happen to the child.

Though unable-or unwilling-to reveal the fate of human-fae offspring himself, Rogue accompanies me on my quest for answers. Along the way he agrees to teach me to harness my power, in exchange for a single kiss each day and sleeping by my side each night. Just as I am about to yield to temptation, I find myself in a deadly game of cat and mouse with an insane goddess. Now my search for the truth will lead me to the darkest of all Faerie secrets.

And, just for fun, an excerpt!

Chapter 1
In Which I Accomplish Several Impossible Things before Breakfast

Negotiation is the science of the fae culture, providing the guiding precepts for all actions. Virtually nothing is offered without a price attached. Conversely, nothing can be taken from you without appropriate payment. Pretty much.

~Big Book of Fairyland, “Rules of Bargaining”

We were late to the battle.

As I’d been promised, the Promontory of Magic enjoyed a spectacular view, though I wasn’t there to sightsee. The finger of rocks thrust well out into the ocean, the water the unnatural blue of a resort hotel pool, despite the thunderous surf and driving rain.

Below, two fleets of sailing ships exchanged fire. They were conveniently arrayed on each side of the promontory, flanking me as if I were a Wimbledon line judge sitting at the net, ready to call faults and points. Except my power was even greater.

I would decide who lived or died.

Whether I wanted to or not.

My hair lashed against my cheeks, stinging me, and I pulled up the hood of my cloak, grateful for its warmth. A gift from Rogue, the cloak magically repelled water. Despite all I’d learned about controlling and stabilizing magic, Rogue’s abilities far exceeded mine. The scent of sandalwood teased me, bringing up warm and sensual memories of his devastating kisses. Rogue managed to be both the bane of my life and the addiction I couldn’t seem to shake. My life had become irretrievably intertwined with the fae lord’s, though I hadn’t seen him in days. His absence made my heart that much more vulnerable to the longings he stirred in me. I tucked them away, where they wouldn’t distract me.

“Which side is ours?” I asked.

My fae companion, Puck—a vision in celadon polka dots that clashed quite alarmingly with his strawberry blond locks—gave me a goggle-eyed stare, as if I’d asked which way was up, and pointed at the left side. Good thing I’d asked—I’d thought maybe it was the other. One of the many disadvantages of being a human in Faerie was missing out on their hive-mind shared understanding.

“It’s a fine day for a battle!” Puck gazed out over the ships with a gleeful expression and I tried to fake the same enthusiasm, despite the dread in my heart.

Of course, every day in Faerie was fine, in a purely aesthetic sense. The sun, which shone most of the time, did so with lustrous brilliance in depthless skies. The grass glowed an emerald green Oz would have envied. Even the rain shimmered like effervescent and musical drops of platinum.

Beautiful, gorgeous, yes.

Don’t wish you were here.

Seriously.

In a place like Faerie, the pretty merely masked the reality, which could be horrible indeed. I hadn’t liked my university job as a neuroscientist in the physiology department back in Wyoming, but being employed as a war sorceress sucked far more. Forget the glam sound of it—killing people at someone else’s whim whittled away your humanity in hateful bites. Compared to that, my old tenure committee seemed like amateurs.

“You recall your instructions?” Puck bobbed his head as he spoke, encouraging me to agree.

“Piece of cake.”

Puck cocked his head, puzzled, and I knew my idiom hadn’t quite translated. Usually my intended meaning got through just fine via the telepathic network, but sometimes, particularly if I didn’t pay attention, my good old American English slang created strange images in the fae mind.

Some gaps could never be bridged.

“Yes. Darling will inform me of the moment and I will sink exactly half of the enemy ships.” I sent a questioning thought to Darling, my cat Familiar, to make sure he was still on board with the plan, especially since he provided my only long-distance communication access. When he felt like it. Imagine a cell phone company run by kittens.
“It shall be a battle to go down in history! Victory shall be ours!” Puck galloped off, leaving me alone with Darling’s grumbling narrative in my head, which roughly translated as bored, bored, bored.

Darling had become my Familiar largely in a quest for adventure, and being stuck with the generals at battle HQ so he could relay information to me annoyed him to no end. He wanted real action. Sometimes his thoughts came across with a disconcerting manly point of view—especially since he communicated mainly in pictures and feelings. He also suffered from delusions of grandeur.

I had bigger problems, however. The terms of my indentured servitude to General Falcon as pet sorceress in his war dictated that I do as he instructed. The arcane rules of bargaining in Faerie gave me something of an out—as long as I stuck to the letter of our agreements, I could skate around what he really wanted.

In this case, the drowning death of half the humans in the opposing army. Or navy, I guess.

I sure as hell couldn’t drown a bunch of innocent humans. The fae might regard their lives as disposable, but I knew the men on those ships had no more choice—or stake—in Falcon’s ridiculous war games than the wooden vessels themselves. Rogue had warned me I’d face this moment if I chose to honor my servitude instead of running off with him. Since I hadn’t been eager to exchange my status for an even more questionable one with Rogue, I was well and truly stuck.

Don’t think about him.

A white slice of anger at my current predicament flared in me. Something sharp and alien enough to take my breath away. I shuttered my mind, thinking it came from elsewhere, but it continued its headlong race through my heart and disappeared again, leaving me rattled. This wasn’t the first time I’d felt it since the last battle—like the remnants of a fever dream after you’ve awakened. I wasn’t sure what it meant, but I knew giving it attention was probably a bad idea.

Instead I concentrated on my goals for the day:

1. Do what you’re told.
2. Keep to simple agreements.
3. Stay alive.
4. Try not to kill anyone.

The four habits of highly effective sorceresses.

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Author Head Shot

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her fantasy BDSM romance, Petals and Thorns, originally published under the pen name Jennifer Paris, has won several reader awards. Sapphire, the first book in Facets of Passion has placed first in multiple romance contests and the follow-up books, Platinum and Ruby, are climbing the charts. Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency. The first book in Covenant of Thorns, Rogue’s Pawn, has won numerous awards and the highly anticipated sequel, Rogue’s Possession, releases this fall. She is currently working on Master of the Opera and The Twelve Kingdoms, a fantasy trilogy.

Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com or every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog.

She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.