Tag Archives: The Twelve Kingdoms

Facing Fear of Failure

By Jeffe Kennedy

The Talon of the HawkThis is the cover for my next TWELVE KINGDOMS book, THE TALON OF THE HAWK. It comes out May, 2015, but the Addicted 2 Heroines blog is running a Hottest Heroines cover contest for all covers revealed in 2014. I was thrilled they chose the TALON cover for round one, and even more delighted that it won that round! Even more, I’m really pleased that Kensington gave my warrior princess such a strong pose.

She’s fearless and it shows.

Not so easy for the rest of us, but then our battles tend to be less overt. I was talking with a writer friend the other day about fear and how starting each new book is an act of courage. She’d tweeted something that struck a chord with me and we went back and forth about it. It was a well-timed conversation for me because I’m drafting a new erotic romance, the third in my FALLING UNDER trilogy. And this week I saw two Publishers Weekly reviews for my books. One, for UNDER HIS TOUCH, the second in the FALLING UNDER trilogy, which comes out in January, is pretty good. But it penetrated my brain, little whispers of it echoing as I draft this new book. Worse, the other review, for THE TEARS OF THE ROSE, the second book in THE TWELVE KINGDOMS, which came out two weeks ago is really quite terrible. One of those deals where the reviewer did not get at all what the story meant to do. If the very same book hadn’t been nominated for best Fantasy Romance of the year in the RT Reviewers Choice awards, I’d have been devastated.

As it is, I can recognize that this sort of thing is inevitable when I make bold choices as a writer. In THE TEARS OF THE ROSE I took on writing an unlikable heroine. One that most readers say they feel like slapping for the first half of the book – until they discover they’ve slowly grown to like and admire her, until at the end they’re cheering. That’s exactly what I wanted. I don’t think our heroines should be perfect people. We celebrate the deeply flawed hero who redeems himself – I wanted the same thing for this heroine. I knew going in that some readers would not get this at all. We can talk about the social reasons that women are held to different standards of likability than men, but it’s an old conversation. This book was my offering to that dialogue.

It took courage to write it anyway. It’s hard to hear harsh criticism, even when you knew it was possible, even likely.

I think it’s even more difficult to battle this fear in this age of dense social media. Everywhere I turn I see harsh reviews, pet peeves and rants about books. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post on how damaging I think it is for writers to read any of those lists or articles on “tropes that need to die.” The upshot is that fear of criticism kills creativity.

As I said, all of this has been heavy on my mind as I draft this new erotic romance. I’m a write-for-discovery writer. While I know my general premise, I follow the story as I write. This book is taking me to dark, angsty places. I resisted the story for a while, thinking about potential criticism. Which led to me spinning for a number of days. When readers and reviewers question why the author made a particular choice, I think they don’t realize how often it’s not our choice at all. It’s the story’s choice. At least, that’s true for me – I can either follow the story or I can fight it. Guess who eventually wins?

Still, it takes courage at every stage – writing, sending out to my agent and editor, revising, release day, facing reader feedback and reviews.

If only I had a big golden sword, huh?

World Fantasy Con 2014

The Tears of the RoseBy Jeffe Kennedy

Last weekend I attended the 40th World Fantasy Convention (WFC). In fact, I’m writing this post as I fly home, so I’m in that post-conference phase where everything I heard and learned has melted together in my brain.

This was only the second time I attended World Fantasy—the first being two years ago in Toronto. A lot has changed for me in the last two years. Also, I faithfully attend RWA and RT. Those factors and a few others made this a very different conference for me.

As far as comparisons, WFC is much more like RWA. It’s mainly a professional conference, more on the business and craft side and heavily attended by agents and editors. My agent, Connor Goldsmith, attended. He is still fairly new to me and this was the first time we met in person. Happily, we got on terrifically and he did amazing work for me at the conference. Based in New York, Connor already knows the editors—far better than I do. Especially as many of the fantasy editors are not people I’ve met before. With THE TEARS OF THE ROSE coming out in a couple of weeks (11/25!) and with us in talks to add three more books to the series, the timing worked perfectly. Connor is all the outgoing that I’m not and he dedicated himself over the several days to making sure I met everyone he thought I should.
As a result, I spent a lot of time in the bar, with Connor and his agent buddies, which made for a very different conference experience. Two agents I spent a great deal of time with were Jennifer Udden and Amy Boggs, from Donald Maass Literary Agency. Amy reps Thea Harrison and I’ve been glomming her Elder Races series lately, so we had a lot of discussions about the books and the series. Amy is so smart and just lovely to talk with. Jennifer reps more romance along with SFF and she’s a delight. In fact, we’re hoping to have her out to Albuquerque this fall for my local RWA chapter’s conference, LERA’s Enchanting the Page.

Hanging out with the agents and hearing their conversations lends a different perspective, as they reported back to each other what editors were saying, which pitches they received well and what they just did not want to hear. Over and over I heard them saying the editors pretty much cut short any pitch involving paranormal romance or urban fantasy. Conversely, they all wanted epic fantasy. As we all know, this could change in six months, but that’s where things stand now.

Just saying.

Other than that, I attended my first SFWA business meeting and worked the SFWA informational table. I met so many people I’d only talked to online and I’m happy to report that everyone was welcoming, inclusive and generally delightful. I made new friendships and I’m coming home eager to volunteer to support the organization.

I give WFC a big thumbs up as a professional writers conference. Next year it will be in Saratoga Springs, so still in the US. (They’re talking Helsinki after that, so this is a good opportunity to avoid the international travel ticket.)

Anything I left out? I’m happy to answer questions in the comments!

(P.S. I just landed in Dallas to find out that the RT Reviewers Choice Awards Nominees were announced and THE TEARS OF THE ROSE has been nominated for best Fantasy Romance and THE MARK OF THE TALA for Book of the Year. WOW. I’m just thrilled and verklumpt.)

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.