Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is “If I could go back to my Debut Year…” You can tell I didn’t suggest this one because I don’t believe in the “Debut Year.”
See, the “Debut Year” is a bit of magical, sparkle-pony mythology of Author Land. Come on over to find out more.
Today is the last day to grab the SFWA Fantasy Story Bundle! It goes away at midnight US Eastern time tonight, November 2, 2017, never to be assembled in this grouping at this great price again. The response to this has been fantastic – earning money for the authors and for SFWA grants, so thank you all for supporting this effort! I did a post about my contribution, and how being in SFWA assisted with my worldbuilding, so you can check that out here.
I had coffee with my stepsister Hope the other day. I was in Tucson to give a workshop, so we met up at one of our favorite Starbucks before I headed to the airport Monday morning. (We share no genes in common, but are identical in our Starbucks love.) She mentioned that she rarely reads my blog anymore because she’s not so interested in writing stuff.
For the record, this was not meant to be guilt-inducing. She said it in passing by way of talking about a post she DID see and enjoyed, the one on why I think people should enter RWA’s RITA contest. She thought it said a lot to non-writers, too, about how it’s easier sometimes to fall into the habit of not trying for things, for fear of failure or disappointment. The result then, naturally, is that you don’t win, either. She drew some parallels with her own life, which I found interesting.
And it made me realize how far I’ve drifted from how I used to blog, which was more about these kinds of thoughts and daily minutiae. So, I’m going to try to get back into that. A lot of it, of course, will still be about writing, since that’s a huge part of my life, but that’s not ALL I do. Not most days anyway…
I’ve been doing some schedule reassessing and rearranging in general, anyway. On October 23, I passed my two-year anniversary of leaving the day job to write full time. It’s funny that I still feel like I’m adjusting to that new reality after two full years. In fiction we condense time so much that I think I forget sometimes how long real human beings take to really change. When I was in Tucson, I chatted with Frankie Robertson, a member of that local RWA chapter, the Saguaro Romance Writers. She’d been reading THE TEARS OF THE ROSE and commented on the heroine Ami’s character transformation.
I should mention at this point that Ami is probably my most disliked heroine – by readers, not by me. In contrast, of the entire Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms series, this is the only one to receive a Top Pick GOLD from RT Book Reviews, their highest possible rating.
Frankie mentioned reading one of the one-star reviews on this book – and how the reader just hated Ami for her vanity, selfishness, and shallowness – and how she felt that person read a different book than she did. Because yes, Ami starts out that way, and then she *changes*, which is really the whole point of the story, and what Frankie loved about it. Then Frankie also pointed out that Ami changes really fast, over the course of a few months, and we both laughed about compressed fiction time.
That’s all a bit of an aside, but goes to how in real life, changes take a long time to accommodate. So, here I am, two years later, and still discovering how it works for me to write full time, what kind of daily word count I can sustain, and how to best both use and enjoy my time.
Because that has been one effect of my change in schedule – I have more time off, sleep more and according to a natural calendar and I do recreational things. But I’m still figuring out how to balance my traditionally published work with the self-publishing projects, which produce different sets of deadlines.
I’m not quite sure why blogging began to feel like too much to keep up with, but I’d like to change that.
For you reader types out there, I know that I’ve been bumping deadlines around a lot. Much of this has come from the new traditional publishing projects edging out the self-pub projects. I have legal contracts with them, and outside expectations, which tend to
trump take precedence over (will we ever be able to use that word again???) my internal deadlines.
At any rate, THE SNOWS OF WINDROVEN is completely done! That will be in the holiday anthology AMID THE WINTER SNOW with Grace Draven, Thea Harrison, and Elizabeth Hunter. We’re looking on track to have that release December 12, 2017, with preorders live in a couple of weeks.
I’m also working on the third Missed Connections book, which is Amy’s story. A different Amy – I didn’t realize I did that! My other Ami is Amelia and this one is Amanda, so… hey, it happens! This one will be called SINCE LAST CHRISTMAS and it *will* be out before Christmas.
I do hope to get book four of Sorcerous Moons out in early next year, but I have a book due to my traditional publisher that I have to write before that. This is for my new high fantasy trilogy, THE LOST PRINCESS chronicles. I’ve turned in the first book, PRINCESS OF DASNARIA – which has been declared “fantastic,” so I think you all will like it – and I need to write the second book, EXILE OF DASNARIA. But I really do promise to get back to Lonen and Oria! Thank you all for bearing with me on that.
Speaking of change, some of you may have seen on Facebook that my mother-in-law, David’s mother, passed away on Halloween. It was not unexpected, as she’d been in a nursing home and had been declining. Still, David’s father and older brother also died in the past several years, so there’s been a lot of loss in the family. I’m hoping this makes three and we’ll be done for a while. So, we’ll be heading up to northern Wyoming for the funeral, and to spend time with family.
This is my favorite photo of Leona. I’m big on showing people how they were in their prime, not as they were when death came to claim them. The daughter of French and Irish immigrants, Leona grew up on a ranch in Montana next to the Crow Reservation. She was ever a tough and determined woman, and she leaves behind a large family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Love this photo from Carien, Sullivan McPig and Voodoo Bride – all hugging on their copy of Rogue’s Pawn. I might not have visited The Netherlands, but my books have!
Many of you know I lived in Wyoming for a long time. I went there for graduate school, fell in love with David and ended up staying more than 20 years. Wyoming is an interesting place to live, landlocked in the middle of the country, with the smallest population of all the states. A lot of it is beautiful and a lot isn’t. But the people who live there have a fierce pride of place. There’s a certain mystique to being a resident, to combatting the ferocious winters and going without the luxuries other communities enjoy. It’s tied in with the Western Myth, the hero as a cowboy, the rugged loner and frontiersman.
When I met David – a Wyoming man, born and bred – he would sometimes comment contemptuously about the “Wyoming Wannabes,” the people who moved there wanting to be part of the mystique. There were people like this, who left the big cities and came to Wyoming thinking they’d become the Malboro Man. One writer friend pointed out that it was the only place she’d ever lived where people identified themselves by how long they’d lived there. She was right – everybody knew their length of residency and offered it up as their Wyoming cred, the longer, the better.
And, if you hadn’t been born there, it didn’t matter how long you’d lived there – you were never a “real” resident.
I think of this when I hear someone complain about another “mining a cultural tradition.” It’s this idea that a culture – or a place or a myth or mystique – is somehow the exclusive property of one group of people. On a panel I moderated at World Fantasy Con in 2012, the Australian author Sean Williams spoke at some length of being very aware of not inadvertently mining the aboriginal culture for stories or mythology in any way. I read much of this same criticism (among heaps of others) about Miley Cyrus’ performance at the Grammys this year, and how she was appropriating black culture.
It seems to be this sense that a minority or oppressed group has something precious, that should not be stolen by an imperialist culture.
What bothers me is, who decides what’s part of human culture or a place that anyone can enjoy and what belongs to only one group?
When I was a teen, I once told some family friends that I didn’t feel much patriotism for the United States as a whole, but that if my hometown of Denver was attacked, I’d fight to defend it. They were very interested in that and said they wondered if it was because I hadn’t lived much of anywhere else or traveled much. In many ways, they were right – as I’ve grown older and lived more places, my sense of the world has grown much broader. Many places are special to me now. I think about this in science fiction stories sometimes, that a day will come when we’ll identify as being “from Earth,” not just one city, state, or country, but the whole planet.
From that perspective, isn’t human culture all one culture?
I confess that it bothers me that, as a storyteller, I’m to keep my thoughts out of some mythologies. That they somehow belong to someone else, as their exclusive property. I suppose I believe that shared racial memory means among all human beings, not just the Irish/Scot/French/Dutch melange I can genetically lay claim to.
So, I’m curious to know what you all think. Is there a line that shouldn’t be crossed? And, if there is, how and where should it be drawn?
Looky! The covers for my Master of the Opera e-serial are starting to appear! The first two are on my website. I actually have the next two, but those will remain SEKRIT until Bookpushers reveals them on August 15. After that, there will be two more! Very exciting. There will be six episodes in all, released about every two weeks starting December 31. (At least, that’s the current word.) Here’s the blurb for Act I: Passionate Overture.
In the first tantalizing installment of Jeffe Kennedy’s ravishing serial novel Master of the Opera, an innocent young woman is initiated into a sensual world of music, mystery, passion–and one man’s private obsession. . .
Fresh out of college, Christine Davis is thrilled to begin a summer internship at the prestigious Sante Fe Opera House. But on her first day, she discovers that her dream job has a dark side. Beneath the theater, a sprawling maze of passageways are rumored to be haunted. Ghostly music echoes through the halls at night. And Christy’s predecessor has mysteriously disappeared. Luckily, Christy finds a friend and admirer in Roman Sanclaro, the theater’s wealthy and handsome patron. He convinces her there’s nothing to fear–until she hears the phantom’s voice for herself. Echoing in the labrynths. Singing of a lost love. Whispering her name: Christine.
At first, Christy thinks she’s hearing things. But when a tall masked man steps out of the shadows–and into her arms–she knows he’s not a phantom of her imagination. He is the master of her desire. . .
Didn’t they make it sound awesome? Even *I* want to read it…
So, I mentioned on Twitter that I was the subject of a priest’s sermon – and I was the GOOD example. Now, I’m trying not to be hurt that none of you believed me and I *did* promise to tell the story today, so….
Back in July, as some of you may or may not know, David and I made the journey up to northern Wyoming to bury his father. We’d been expecting it as his dad, GF, had moved into hospice a week or two before he died. Still, it was wrenching. GF was the head of a large and happy family, a courageous and warm-hearted person and we’ll miss him greatly. For us this was a three-day event, because Buffalo, Wyoming is one of those “you can’t get there from here” places. We spent Wednesday driving an hour from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, flying to Denver, taking a 19-seat prop airplane to Casper, Wyoming, renting a car and driving another two hours to Buffalo. Then we turned around and did it in reverse on Friday.
The rosary was Wednesday night and the service Thursday morning. If any of you are Catholics – or have the misfortune to be connected to Catholics – then you’ll know these were not brief services. The full Catholic Mass funeral and graveside service on Thursday took 3 1/2 hours. After that we returned to the church to eat, then hung out at David’s parents’ house for the rest of the day and evening.
It ended up being good, because it slowed us down. There was nothing to be done, but hang out, eat food, drink wine (this is the up-side of the Catholics!) and talk.
Driving back down to Casper on Friday morning, we were emotionally exhausted. We talked about the family and related conversations we’d had without each other. David was driving and I glanced down, noticing something between my seat and the center console. I dug it out and discovered it was an American passport. The owner hadn’t filled out his contact information (Bad!), but I had his name, birthday and general location.
So I searched on my smart phone and found a guy his age living in the right area. I called the number and got an anonymous voice mail, so I left a message. I really hoped he wasn’t traveling somewhere and stuck without his passport. We debated what to do then. David suggested leaving it with TSA at Casper airport. I thought TSA would likely destroy it or it would disappear into the vast depths that suck up all the stuff TSA confiscates. When we returned the rental car, I asked the very young workers at the counter if anyone had called looking for the passport. They said no. I didn’t really want to leave it with them either, because, well… they seemed sweet but not terribly conscientious.
I took it with me.
During our layover in the Denver airport, my cell phone rang and it was him! Turns out this guy is a priest, lives in Buffalo, New York, and had missed the passport but had no idea how to go about dealing with it. He’d flown out to Wyoming the week before to help another priest struggling with a problem in his community.
I felt kind of emotional about it. The time we’d spent doing the rosary, mass and funeral was easily the most time I’d been in a church in years, maybe decades. I’m not a religious person – this likely comes as no shock to you all – but I did major in religious studies in college. More, I associate the church with my family. I often joke that I’m Catholic the same way that I’m Irish – it’s in the genes, whether I observe anything or not. GF died on July 4. David and I were in Denver at the time, helping my mom and Stepdad Dave clear out the house I grew up in. My stepfather Leo, a former Catholic priest, had married my mother a year after we moved in and died there 35 years later. His brother, my uncle who is still Catholic priest, was heavy on my mind. He’s living in an assisted living/retirement community and had really dropped contact with us after Leo passed away. While I was in Denver, I called the place, as my uncle canceled his cell phone, and got his mailing address. I tried to call him on his room phone, but got his voice mail.
The Monday after we got home, I took the passport to the post office and mailed it to Father Sam. With it I included a note where I talked about some of these same things. I wasn’t sure what it all meant, but it felt like it did mean something.
This week, a big box arrived for me. Turns out Father Sam of Buffalo, New York, also runs a bakery! This story can’t get any better. He sent me pita bread, amazingly delicious olive oil, salsa and these thin nacho chips that are out of this world. He also enclosed a note:
Dear Jeffe Kennedy,
Thank you! It is always good to be at the other end of a nice action. I have already used what you did as an example in my sermon this past Sunday. It often is a “pain in the neck” to go out of our way esp. when we are about hard stuff in our own lives.
You have made a difference and I preach a lot that God calls us to make a difference not save the world. He will do that!
God Bless you and your family,
Father A Sam
I want you all to know that I wept a little bit, even transcribing that. I’m not sure I can explain why. Maybe because I struggle sometimes with feeling like I’m not always the best person I can be. I dwell sometimes on friendships and connections I’ve lost, why some seem to end for no reason at all – except that I suspect it’s my fault, somehow. Maybe part of the take-home message is that making a difference for someone else doesn’t have to be a grand action. Even the little things count.
At any rate, I didn’t mean to make this a sad story – or such a long one! You all have a lovely weekend. Carien and Amy, you won books from Tuesday’s post, so let me know which ones you want!
I know, I know – you know already. But, just THINK – this post means I won’t talk about it anymore!
(Well, pretty much. You know how I am. I might have to refer back to it. And what if there’s an AWARD or something?? Still, for now, this pretty much wraps up this particular book’s debut. She has her dress and her escort. I fully expect her to stay out partying for a LONG time.)
I mentioned last week that we were traveling up to northern Wyoming to visit family. Yes, it’s cold here, with snow and blizzards and so forth. I’ve lost all my Wyoming tough and I don’t miss it. But it’s been a good visit and we’re glad we came. Seeing my father-in-law struggle with his health and fighting the pain meds to string a few thoughts together really brings home how dependent we are on these fragile bodies.
All these things we want to do – books that we want to write or read, places to visit, even bathroom remodeling fantasies – they all depend on the flesh holding out. It makes feeling like I don’t have enough time to write seem pretty silly. We always go through this, the “remember the small blessings” bit, but it’s easy to forget, in the hubub and tumble of all the juggling.
Being thankful here.
We went back to Wyoming for the first time in nearly two years, to go camping with David’s family. The landscape felt immediately familiar. Not like going home again, but like recognizing a part of your own body. I suppose Wyoming will always be a large part of me.
I hadn’t realized that before.
A lot of the things we do day-to-day are reflexive. We don’t really think about the influences that shaped us, the expressions we use.
A little while back, I was on a conference call with my boss. She lives in New Hampshire, but grew up in the South. The call was set up by a guy in the company who usually moves in different circles than we do. He brought us together with another company, which planned to bid on a project and needed the expertise my boss and I have. So, most of us don’t know each other – and Laurie and I are the only two women on the call.
He starts off saying, “Why don’t you lead off, [Dan], since this is your wheelhouse.”
She and I are on IM together. So I type to her “Did he say wheelhouse? Is that a boating metaphor?”
She says, “Isn’t it trains?”
I say, “No, no – that’s roundhouse.”
From there they talked about us being in a huddle, running the ball down the field, shooting from outside and loading up the bases. I kept playing “try to guess the sports metaphor.” It took some effort, because I am just so not a sports kind of gal.
The guys didn’t mean to be exclusionary, of course. If we’d pointed it out to them, they’d have been abashed and apologetic. We’ve told this story a few times and a number of men have said that half the time they don’t know what the sports metaphor means either.
But my boss and I have decided to Take Back the Metaphors. It’s time that those of us who did not grow up playing team sports introduce our own views of success. Some possibilities.
“Let’s run that one down the catwalk and see who snaps a picture.”
“With shorter hemline and some creative accessorizing, this could be a whole new project.”
“All we’re doing is slapping a fresh coat of cosmetics over the wrinkles – we need a full facelift here.”
And, offered by my niece while camping in Wyoming:
“That lipstick will never last 12 hours.”
So, please, join our movement. Use the metier of your choice and Take Back that Metaphor!