How Does Your Garden Grow?

Order and chaos have been on my mind lately.

What, you too?

See, I’ve been thinking about writing methods, because last week on Word Whores was all about pre-plotting versus misting through a novel and this week is about writing rituals, or lack thereof.

What I’m discovering is that these things have a whole lot to do with how we set up the rest of our lives. This should be no surprise to me. I’m a fan of tesseract theory and how a small piece of one thing reflects the overall thing. I’ve talked before about how the structure of one day can be the pattern of your entire life. (This is an over-time concept, so don’t panic if you just had a nothing day.) So it makes sense that your overall life affects the pattern of a single day.

We all plan our lives differently. We have different amounts of pre-plotting or misting to our days. Some of us have structure thrust upon us in the form of jobs that require us to be behind our desks from x o’clock to y-thirty. Some jobs change daily and, though you might apply a tentative structure in the form of To-Do lists, this can change completely depending on phone calls and what hits the In-Box. I expect we find our way to jobs that suit us this way. I love my day job for an environmental consulting firm because all that matters is the quality of my work and that I meet deadlines. No one particularly cares what the clock says when my butt is in the chair, just so long as I get the work done and get it done well.

This suits me. I had one of those “be there from x o’clock to y-thirty” jobs before and hated it.

A friend of mine once told me she’d read a psych study that showed that people with very orderly internal lives have wild and disorderly gardens. Likewise, people with more chaotic internal lives tend to produce orderly gardens. She said this while looking at my untamed cottage garden. The photo above shows my usual gardening style, though we’d only been in that house a few years and I hadn’t had time to completely convert it to a jungle-tangle. If I were to show you a picture of my friend’s garden, you would see her neatly bordered rows, with bunches of plants set an exact distance apart. Very pleasing to the eye.

I was forever wanting to sneak over and plant a stray something in the wrong spot.

At any rate, I’ve discovered that, though I’m an orderly person in many ways: ritualistic about my days, methodical in scientific work and my love for spreadsheets is near legendary, there’s another side of me that loves to fling order to the winds and embrace chaos.

I may never plot simply because I love the wildness of an unplanned novel. Oh yeah, later I’ll go back and thin it out here and there, tweak the plantings for maximum effect.

But first I’m tossing my seeds into the wind. Just to see what I get.

It’s a New Dawn…and I’m Feeling Good

There’s this song we sang in Girl Scouts that went

Why sleep when the day has been called out by the sun
From the night? Cuz the light’s gonnna shine on everyone.
Why sleep when the sleep only closes up our eyes?
Why sleep when we can watch the sun arise?

It goes on from there in a perky fashion. And all you former Girl Scouts out there? You’re welcome for the ear worm.

Now, I’ve mentioned many times that I am not a morning person. Never have been. At girl scout camp, when they programmed us with the song and then encourage us to go on the sunrise hike? I opted out. (Actually “sunrise hike” is a misnomer. It was a pre-dawn hike UP the mountain to then watch the sunrise. One girl in my group got hit in the face with a backlashing branch that split her eyelid open, so I felt totally vindicated.)

I used to make smart remarks like, why bother to watch a sunrise when the sunset is the same thing in reverse.

Over time, however, I’ve taught myself to get up early – not to hike up mountains in the pre-dawn dark, which still sounds insane to me – but to get all the things done that are important to me. And I’ve found that sunrises do look different.

I kind of like seeing them. I like how the sky goes from dark to day. It is like the fulfillment of a promise.

My friend, the fabulous writer and blogger, Tawna Fenske, let everyone know last week that her marriage is breaking up. Then she went on to mention conversations she and I had about her next husband, Xavier. I made him up for her partly to make her laugh when she was sad.

But also, I believe it’s important to remember that there will be new dawns. It’s easy, in the depths of despair over a breakup or loss, to think that you’ll never meet anyone ever again. Building the fantasy of the possibilities is part of dragging yourself out of that mindset.

Why not imagine the fabulously wealthy man with a chateau in the South of France who learned sensual secrets in Thailand? Dreaming something wonderful lifts us up and opens our eyes.

I learned this from my mother, who’s been widowed twice. And married three times. Always she looked beyond the dark days of grief to sunlit days ahead.

That’s probably even worth getting up early for.

Got It for a Song

I did lower body weights at the gym this morning.

Usually when I weight-lift, I don’t listen to music. The treadmill absolutely requires my aerobic track to keep me distracted. For weight-lifting, though, I’m counting and not fighting the certain despair that I’ll never catch my breath again.

Today though, Air Force Guy had the TV up really loud with awful news about Libya. Since I have a strict policy about not depressing myself with news about events I can’t affect, I jumped up from the adductor machine and grabbed the headphones.

Since I was mid-count, rather than searching out my weights playlist (why do I have one if I never use it? Hmm) I just clicked play. This one song that my long-time friend, Kev, sent me came on.

Because I could, I played that one song over and over. I love to do this. I can listen to the same song probably 50 times in a row. Something, I’ve discovered, the people around me don’t enjoy so much.

Go figure.

Its an emotional song that strikes me on many levels. As some songs do, this one makes me want to write a story about it. I’ve never actually written a story from a song, but I think I might this time. As I kept clicking the back button to hear it just one more time (there’s a way to put it on repeat, right? one day I should learn to maximize my iPod use), the story played out in my head, snippets of conversation. I could see the opening line, the penultimate scene.

It could be a great book.

Yesterday, I worked on two projects. If you follow this blog, you’ll know I’ve been musing over whether I can move two writing projects forward at the same time. I’m a monogamous gal by nature, mainly because I’m simply not inclined to cheat. The thing I’m in love with is fine by me. It occurs to me now that this is the same aspect of my character that likes to listen to the same song over and over and over. Apple pie for the rest of my life? Sure! Still, with writing, I’d like to get more going.

So, yesterday, I clocked off the Internet for my usual two hours. (Yes, I’m weak and cannot stop myself from clicking if it’s there to be clicked.) I wrote my 1K on the new novel, The Middle Princess. For the remaining 45 minutes, I worked on Sapphire revisions, from the editorial notes that came in this weekend.

And it worked!

Normally I’m not allowed to deviate from a current project, but since that experiment worked, I might try writing up a little of this morning’s story – just enough to keep it alive and kicking.

I Feel Sparkly

The RT BookLovers convention is coming up next week in Los Angeles.

I know – already! April used to seem *really* far away. So, I’m getting my little act together. This year I’m signing at the Book Expo on Friday, from 4pm- 6pm. How does one sign an electronic book? An excellent question and one I worked on to answer.

The way the eBook Expo works – and yes, it’s still a separate event from the “real” book fair on Saturday. It will be interesting to see if they’re separate next year – is that the convention is using a third-party reseller to sell the ebooks. This is pretty much how it works at all book fairs and conventions. Usually a local bookseller is asked if they’d like to handle sales. The bookseller orders books for the authors, people go around and pick up books from the authors’ tables, chat, get a signature if they like, then queue up to pay. The money runs through the store’s accounts and they get a piece, the convention gets a piece, a charity might get a piece. And so forth.

For the RT Expo, they’re using All Romance eBooks as their reseller. Authors will have download codes that readers can pay for, then take online and download the version of their choice. Sounds like a great system, right? Well, not for me because my publisher, Loose Id, says they won’t work with a third-party reseller. Seems odd to me because Petals & Thorns is available from All Romance eBooks and they sell the hell out of it, actually. But Loose Id says they’ve had problems in the past with that set-up, so no download love for me. The very helpful RT folks said that authors in my position just burn their books to a CD and sell it that way.

I thought, who the hell uses CDs anymore? My new laptop doesn’t even have an optical drive (no drawer for CDs or DVDs).

So I bought jump drives! Pink ones.

I also have other responsibilities to distribute swag, as all the toys and sparklies handed away at conventions are fondly called. The Word Whores are giving away a basket. We also have a table on Promo Lane. Plus little gatherings. I needed things to give away.

So I hit Michael’s yesterday. I bought rose stickers to put on the jump drives, and little bouquets of silk roses to tie the jump drives to book marks I can sign. Extremely pleased with myself, I came up with a collapsible “basket” for our giveaway, so that the lucky winner can actually pack it and take it home. I’ll post a photo of the complete basket next week, once I have everyone’s swag for it. I also picked out table dressing for the signing and the Expo, and all sorts of Word-Whores and Petals & Thorns themed pretty things.

At the counter, the cashier asked me if it was all for my wedding.

I can just picture this wedding I would have, at this stage in my life, where I’d decorate with black tulle, red roses, sequins and magic wands.

Oh yeah – and you would wish you were invited, too.

At any rate: Behold my book!

I’m Starting a Blog That…

This is my partner cat, Teddy. Lately she’s taken to snoozing just next to me while I read at night. She also stares, but I think that’s love and not necessarily plotting my demise.

I hope.

Sometimes the world of social media gets pretty amusing. Amusing in that “I have to laugh or I’ll claw my eyes out” kind of way. A lot of people offer advice. Usually the same advice, over and over. xkcd, one of my very favorite comics these days, had a strip recently along these lines.

This is more true than I think many people want to believe. There’s a nagging sense that most of the people who offer advice on maximizing social media don’t do much else with their days.

And a lot of their advice just isn’t very good.

For example, there is someone out there somewhere telling people that they should DM (direct message) new followers on Twitter and say hello or what have you. No no no! This is akin to being introduced to someone at a cocktail party, shaking their hand and having them yank you into an embrace, kiss you on the cheek and whisper about their website in your ear.

Yes – really creepy.

Few things on Twitter are ickier than following someone new – okay, give them a whirl, see what they have to say – and boom! getting a private message from them. Whoever out there is saying this is a good idea? It’s just…not.

The other bit of advice floating around is that a blog should be specific, focused and informative. Okay, this is not such a bad thing in and of itself. But we’re living in the Billion-Blog Ear. Yes, I made that up – snazzy, yes? No? Ah, well. It’s nearly impossible to start a blog with a new concept. Really the only thing a new blogger has to offer that isn’t already out there is themselves. But no, the Advice-Givers say that you must trumpet your new blog as filling some unmet need.

Thus, those of us on email loops, etc., are forever receiving posts that say “I’m starting a new blog that brings you the latest news in amphibian cancers!” Or “I’m starting a blog that chronicles my journey through retail hell.”

Actually, those two sound kind of interesting. Most of the notices I see involve writing and there’s just only so much you can say there.

So, in a fit of aggravation, rather than claw my eyes out, I threw this out on Twitter. I asked people how they would finish the sentence. Some of the best responses:

I’m starting a blog that…

…chronicles the minute-by-minute reactions of my cat to the royal wedding…and bacon. @theAntiM
…talks about the political ramifications of bacon. @Allison_Pang
…is nothing but randomness. @MichelleMiles
…celebrates bearded men everywhere. @pennyromance
…should have more zombies! @SullivanMcPig

Poor Sullivan has only cloven hooves and so his owner must blog for him. She tends to edit the zombie bits. So, for a bit of Friday Fun – any to add? What is the blog that Must Be Done?

(If my blog comment function hates you, email me at Jeffe at JeffeKennedy dot com and I’ll paste it in for you.)

Because I Say So

And so, the lines continue to blur.

It’s been clear for some time that publishing is changing. It’s just that no one is sure what it’s changing into. It’s kind of like the scene in a horror/sci fi movie, when one character begins to change into something else. Everyone around them stares in transfixed and fascinated fear while the person loses the hallmarks of humanity. While we wait to see what they become, they’re this mess of jutting bones, sliding tissues and odd liquids.

Right? Exactly like publishing news today.

So, if you’re not plugged into publishing gossip 24/7, the big news this week is that Barry Eisler – a well-known author, though I haven’t read him – turned down a $500K book deal from one of the Big 6 NYC publishers to self-publish. He’s a buddy of Joe Konrath, who has become kind of the foaming-at-the-mouth cheerleader for self-publishing. Don’t get me wrong – a lot of people are inspired by Konrath and his tremendous ability to self-promote, but I find him a trifle on the fanatic side of being a fan of self-pubbing. At any rate, Eisler and Konrath took down their 12,000 word conversation on Eisler’s decision and posted it to the internet. A couple of snide commenters suggested that perhaps they could have used an editor.

At the same time, as former Pocket editor and current Penguin Sekrit Projeckt Wrangler, Danielle Poiesz, notes on her blog, self-publishing luminary Amanda Hocking is close to sealing a major deal with one of the Big 6.

So many choices. So many shiftings back and forth.

Meanwhile I’m seeing more and more writers becoming editors for epublishing houses. They often pick up the work to supplement their incomes. In those transformations, though, a curious thing occurs. As they take on the editorial persona, they gain a certainty they never professed as writers. They start offering writing and editing tips, because now they have the authority to back it up. Sometimes this is like the B film to me, where the person is bit by the vampire and POOF! suddenly they have white skin, red lips and fangs. And a cape.

People are also starting up epresses like crazy. After all, what more do you really need than a computer? Declare yourself an editor, recruit some writers to be editors, too, and start offering book contracts. No need to invest money in advance. It’s the ultimate start-up. All it takes is your time.

The most interesting part of all of this is that reputation, at least for the moment, doesn’t seem to matter. It’s a curious world where things are what people declare them to be. And whoever shouts it the loudest gets the most people to believe them.

Thus the Eislers and the Konraths post their conversations and declare their opinions Gospel truth. People announce contracts with week-old epresses, celebrating with the same fervor as they would a Big 6 contract.

The world will be as we want it to be, people shout out.

It’s as if whoever describes their invisible outfit in the most exciting detail will actually be wearing the velvet and gold. And perhaps they will. Time will tell. Proof is in the pudding and all that.

For a long time, publishers have wanted readers to associate books with their brand. They’ve wanted readers to pick up a St. Martin’s book and buy it because they know what they’ll get with a St. Martins book, just as they would with a Big Mac. This is a basic marketing thing (says she who knows squat about marketing). Obviously this was never going to happen. Readers associate stories mainly with authors, possibly with genre. Most readers never notice the publisher.

As the epresses proliferate, I think this will change. Already I see people noticing that certain epublishers turn out less-than-wonderful books. I’m cleaning up the language considerably here. I hear people talking in terms of the publisher as in, I bought a ebook from Fringed Lampshade books and I wondered if anyone ever read it, much less edited it. Then they don’t want to buy from Fringed Lampshade again.

Which is really how it should work.

It costs nothing to start an epress, to sign authors and offer them a percentage. Maybe you bring quality editing and a fresh perspective. Maybe not. As with all businesses, much will depend on the long run. It’s simple to put a product on the shelf, not so easy to get customers to buy a second time.

And perhaps the big publishers will finally get what they’ve been looking for. After all, at this point the main advantage they retain is editorial and marketing experience. If they can convince readers to look to them for a certain quality, then it might be difficult for an epress to compete.

Meanwhile, we are all in the cast, standing in a circle and watching in fascination as publishing writhes on the floor, kicking out all kinds of ooze. What will it be?

Time will tell.

All Jeffe, All the Time

This is Deliverance, by Manuel Nuñez. The same artist who did Strait is the Gate, which I mentioned previously.

Looking him up, I’ve discovered he does commissioned portraits, so now I’ve got this whole fantasy spinning about how I’ll take money from my first wildly successful contemporary fantasy novel and have a portrait done.

Hey – a girl can dream.

At any rate, I’d had an image in mind of a painting of his I *thought* I’d seen, that looked like a woman laid out for a funeral, but I didn’t find it in his gallery. (On the other hand, I see the piece I own has gone up considerably in value, so I’m feeling all nifty about that.) And then I see Elizabeth Taylor passed, so an image of a lovely woman resting in peace seems all fraught today.

My point is: I’m giving up the Jennifer Paris alter ego.

I know, I know. She was with us such a little time. We hardly knew her.

It was just over a year ago that I announced I’d use Jennifer Paris for my Loose Id erotic novella, Petals and Thorns. March 4 of 2010, actually, and now I’m feeling all astonished that it’s been that long. I was all set to type something like “six months ago.” Tempus fugit and all that.

At any rate, in conversations with the lovely Angela James over my contract for Carina Press, she pointed out that if I intend to use Jennifer Paris as an author name, then I should have her as a social media identity.

Angela is quite savvy about social media, I think. Her blog posts and challenges are frequently cited. She’s all over twitter. And she’s really a terrific person to work with. She has emailed with me, answering my questions with genuine friendliness. In an aside, the contracts/legal guy at Harlequin headquarters is also really warm and friendly. I’m already so impressed with this corporate climate. All of this makes me think they know something about creating a virtual community.

So, I’ve bantered back and forth with Angela on Twitter long before this. And with my fabulous new editor, Deb Nemeth. They know me there by my twitter handle, @jeffekennedy. In fact, I was pretty sure the Carina gig would be a go, because I saw Deb started following me on twitter a couple of weeks before I got the actual phone call. Some of that was to see if I’m psycho, I think. Fortunately I managed to fake that well enough not to set off any alarm bells. I would be very carefully composing tweets for a while, thinking through the potential impacts, then I’d forget myself and go off on riffs with someone and – oops.

It’s a good argument for just being yourself on social media – cuz you’ll forget and do it anyway.

I told Angela I was doing the “Jeffe Kennedy writing as Jennifer Paris” thing and she said no, no, no. Actually she said it’s not the same thing at all. Since I really don’t want to “flesh out” Jennifer Paris and tweet or blog as her (she was only a cardboard cut-out anyway), I decided to retire her.

Besides, there’s also now a transvestite porn star with that name. I don’t have to tell you that link is absolutely NSFW (not safe for work), do I? Yeah, click at your own risk.

So, there you have it. Jennifer Paris is officially a one-off. Goodbye, darling – it was fun while it lasted.

Now I’m All Jeffe, All the Time.

Let’s get this party started.

The More We Know

I don’t mind the overnight snow, since we need the moisture. Dust storms have been clouding the valley. Even the daffodils don’t mind. They whispered that they’re built to withstand this kind of thing.

Over at Word Whores – my group blog, if you didn’t know – we’ve been talking this week about drafting styles. Whether you plan it all out ahead of time or discover as you go. Whatever terms you may assign to to those styles, writers seem to fall pretty solidly into one court or another.

On Laura Bickle’s post from yesterday, she talks about her plotting method. The comments conversation has become very interesting, as other writers profess horror or admiration for her detailed outlines.

That she does *before* she writes the book. Ahem.

At any rate, in the comments, the issue of revising came up. It’s long been the lore that the great drawback of not plotting ahead of time is that you spend a lot more time revising. KAK, who is a german dictator under all that red hair and those pretty smiles, declared that every scene must pass the “purpose” test. If it doesn’t serve the overall story, off it goes.

She’s ruthless. Believe me, I know.

I can see her point. And definitely the revising process is more cerebral than drafting for me. The drafting is all about the misting along and letting anyone and everything into the story. Revising brings the critical lens to the entire arc of the story. I’m not sure anyone can revise in a subconscious, misty way.


Okay, I’m a self-confessed sub-conscious, dreamthink, misty writer. I do believe the stories and characters exist in some reality and reveal themselves to me. I rarely feel like I “think” them up. Sometimes I can’t logically defend why someone or something is there. The critical lens would have me delete that stuff. The purpose test would demand excision. Goal, motivation, conflict? They scoff at these bits.

This is where my gut comes in. Neither the conscious, nor the subconscious, but the deep part that is most me. If I don’t trust that part, then I’m not me, for better or worse. The GMC stuff (see above) arises out of classic storytelling. People like to talk about archetypes of the hero’s journey and so forth. The thing is, archetypes, which Jung originally described as subconsciously shared concepts are something, by definition, already exist inside us. We can critically analyze them, but on some levels, they defy conscious definition.

No, I can’t always defend the purpose of a scene. Sometimes it’s because the scene is junk, or something I needed to write through to get somewhere. But one of the most surprising things I discovered over the ten years I spent writing and publishing essays – the things people keyed in on the most, were those things I had not planned. Scenes or images that just popped up when I was writing. Things that, sometimes, I nearly skipped writing, or thought about deleting later, because they seemed extraneous.

I keep reminding myself of that lesson.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s…


Which sounds way better than Worm Moon. Poor Worm Moon, superseded by our current love of all things supersized.

In case you live under a rock, this particular full moon was to appear 14% bigger than the “regular” sized moon, because of the moon’s proximity to earth. That’s a decent amount of moon supersizing. From the left to the right is a 14% increase.

Several people commented they tried to photograph the Supermoon. It doesn’t come out right, does it? It’s because the cameras still aren’t as good as our eyes. This goes back to the “we photograph light” thing. The great big full moon is so bright against the dark sky, that it ends up being just this blob of a spotlight to the camera. No picking up the subtle shadows of the Sea of Tranquility. No gentle smile of the rising moon.

You’ll notice the best photographs are the ones where the sky is still pretty light, so there’s less extreme contrast. Or, like this one, where a few clouds mute the brightness, allowing for something less than glare.

At any rate, hopefully you got to see it. Lots of people had clouds. Even if you didn’t, it was really the same gorgeous moon we see come and go every night and day. The Worm Moon is for the advent of robins and the worms they eat. The soil is warming and thawing. The birds are singing. Yesterday was also the Spring Equinox.

I forgot to mention last month that the Chinese Year of the Rabbit that we just kicked into is also the year of the moon. Here’s a neat bit I found:

According to Chinese tradition, the Rabbit brings a year in which you can catch your breath and calm your nerves. Not many people know that the Rabbit is the symbol of the Moon, while the Peacock is the symbol of the Sun, and that together, these two animal signs signify the start of day and night, represent the Yin and Yang of life. It is said that anyone making supplications for wishes to be fulfilled are certain to get what they want… and in the Year of the Rabbit, the wish-granting aspect of the Sun and the Moon combined is multiplied. The Moon is YIN and this is the Yin of Heaven, signifying magic. Thus on each of the Full Moon nights of this year, go out into your garden to gaze into the Full Moon and visualize plenty of Moon dust and Moon glow flowing into you, filling your whole body with bright white light and granting you fearlessness, love and courage. This will not only strengthen your inner “Chi” energy, it will also bring wisdom into your life.

So, go make your wishes on the moon. Catch your breath. Calm your nerves.

Fill yourself with moon dust and moon glow.

Go be fearless and wise.