Showing Weakness

This is what sunset looks like when there’s fog on the beach. You can’t see the actual sunset, just the rosy orange evidence of it.

Now I’m in Philadelphia for a few days. The buildings are pretty. I imagine pictures of them will be forthcoming.

It’s always interesting to me to be on the east coast, especially down around the D.C. area. At least I notice it more there than in cities like Philadelphia. The competitiveness. Most of it from the white men.

I know, I know. I’m not supposed to say stuff like that.

But it’s like they’re all still shooting for herd buck. They talk about power. They play little mind games of withholding information and discuss retirement salaries like they’re analogous to another, more intimate masculine part. When I wonder about D.C. politics, I should remember these men, for whom the stock market is everything and their personal wealth takes precedence.

On Saturday, I took a walk on the beach after lunch. The fog kept everything soft and shimmery grey. I wore a sundress and walked barefooted in the surf, carrying my sandals. As I climbed the steps to the hotel deck, a woman bundled up in sweatshirts, with a little dog on her lap, asked me how it was out there, if it was cold.

I said no, It’s warm. It’s lovely. And I laughed, for the loveliness of it all.

And the guy next to her nodded and said, Yeah, see? That’s why I make sure never to laugh.

I realized he meant that I’d blown my lie by laughing. I contemplated the levels of that as I walked up to my room. That he thought I’d want to lie about such a thing. That laughter is a sign of weakness. And that he thinks about these things, even sitting on a hotel deck watching the surf, that you must govern your responses, in order to win interactions between people.

It exhausts me to contemplate it, frankly.

It would be interesting though, to have a character who makes sure never to laugh, who thinks this way.

Who loses all his money and ends up working as a clown in a three-penny circus.

Bwah ha ha ha ha!

And Now For a Little Beach Time

I’m writing this overlooking the ocean.

One of my very favorite things.

Since I was in Baltimore last week for work, and I have to be in Philadelphia for more work Monday morning, it wasn’t worth it to me to spend all that time flying home. So, instead, I’m here in Ocean City, Maryland.

Surf. No thinking. Lots of peace.


Last night I was treated to a concert by the fabulous Jeri Smith-Ready. No, she didn’t sing for me, alas. Instead I met up with her at the Merriweather Post Pavilion outside of Baltimore to see the Walkmen and Fleet Foxes. Check out this video from Fleet Foxes if you’re interested. I hadn’t heard of them, but I know Jeri has excellent musical taste, so I went with implicit trust. I bought an album today. Jeri described them as having a Crosby, Stills and Nash sound, which I can see. They use close harmonies and lots of acoustic sounds. There’s also a spiraling, circular feel to their songs that’s most stirring. They music winds around through slow, intimate lyrics to crashing crescendos of harmony.

The Walkmen opened for Fleet Foxes and they did a great job, too. Kind of a U2 vibe there. I don’t consider myself all that musically discerning, but I thought the drummer was really excellent. He drove the songs forward, punching through the lead singer’s lovely tenor.

It was a bit of a pain to get there. Work was long and intense. I had to take colleagues to the Baltimore airport in torrential rain and rush hour traffic, then swap rental cars. Jeri and I resorted to Twitter to find each other. But the skies cleared, the night was balmy, the company excellent. I let the music wash over me and take away all the tension.

Plus I got to hear the scoop on Jeri’s new Sekrit Project and it sounds just amazing.

Happy Saturday!

Be Careful What You Wish For: Studenstein Edition!

I’m off in Baltimore this week, so today I’m hosting the fabulous Daisy Harris, with the second book in her Sexy Zombie series. Seriously – no decomposition in sight and a fascinating world. Daisy has a fun, snarky sense of humor – both on Twitter and on the page.

I think you all will like her.


Hey Jeffe! Thanks for having me on the blog today. I thought I’d talk a little bit about wish fulfillment, and heroes. I love a flawed hero—the bad boys and gruff lost souls. One of my favorite movies of all time is French Kiss, in which Kevin Kline said the famous line, “When people tell me they are happy, my ass begins to twitch.” That sums up my feeling about “happy” people—they make my ass twitch.

It was with this in mind that I created my flawlessly-perfect and yet deeply flawed Studenstein hero, Mr. Royce Harden. A manufactured human, he’s built to fulfill every woman (and man’s) sexual desires. He’s perfect, and content, and equipped with an array of naughty upgrades.

It’s no surprise then, that Royce is a little too-good-to-be-true. His easygoing nature means that he overlooks the horrors of his situation. He’s a slave, and denigrated every day of his life. And still, Mr. Charming’s attitude is, “It’s all good!”

I loved writing a hero like Royce. Much as I adore romance novels, some of the heroes I read are a little too perfect. They’re everything a woman could ever wish for—and yet I can’t believe in them. Perfect people annoy me. And that’s as true to heroes as it is for heroines.

My Studenstein heroine, Shani is a far, far cry from perfect. A former-sex-slave, she’s got a bad attitude and an abrasive manner. But still, I love her. As far as I’m concerned, the best feature of Shani is that when she meets Royce, she’s completely unimpressed.

All the things that make Royce irresistible to other women just piss Shani off. She sees through his practiced façade, scoffs at his leather pants. Always skeptical, Shani even questions whether the bulge at his front is grafted. This tough-as-nails heroine needs a man who’s more than perfect. She needs him to be a real hero, and that means giving up some of the things that made him too-good-to-be-true.

Want to find out more? Check  out my website ( for excerpts and other fun stuff. Or buy it today at Ellora’s Cave!

Buffing Up

This is not how Baltimore looks this morning. No, Baltimore is moist and grey. I can’t see the rain, but people are going by with umbrellas. I’m missing my Santa Fe blue skies.

(Yeah, okay, we had a couple weeks of not so blue – here’s my photo contrasting with the same flowers against a stormy sky from a few days ago.)

So, as long-time blog-gobblers know, I’ve been a proponent of the 1K/day. It worked for me to try to write 1,000 words each day, which I do before I start the day job. On Twitter, someone started the #1K1hr, where write either 1,000 words or for an hour, whichever comes first. That’s kind of fun to do, because groups of people sprint together. However, I find that the time pressure interferes and I don’t enjoy the storytelling as much. Then this one gal had to start bragging about doing #2k1hr, saying that 1K is for wimps, which felt all competitive and awful to me.

There’s a reason I didn’t do team sports in school.

Um, besides the fact that I was a klutz and no one would have me. But, funny, no one ever yelled at me to read more books! Faster!

(Now I’m picturing the librarians like the football coaches, with track suits and whistles, veins bulging in their temples. “You’re just not putting effort into it, Kennedy! I want to see 100 pages in thirty minutes – now, go!”)

At any rate, I think I mentioned at some point here that I’ve changed my approach a bit, with drafting The Middle Princess. When I was in my long spell of revising, it naturally didn’t work for me to shoot for 1K and the then switch to the day job. So I was revising for two hours. That worked fine. And I did it long enough that working for two hours became a habit. (And habit becomes ritual which becomes sacred and then you’re golden.) So I started drafting for two hours. My goals are all set up (on spreadsheets) for 1K/day, but now, once I reach my 1K, I keep going until my two hours are up.

And wow.

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve been amazingly productive. Like 10,000 to 12,000 words per week productive. Plus it feels good and not draining or exhausting. I’m at over 60K on Middle Princess and closing in on the Act II climax. I’m a week ahead of my self-imposed deadline.

Which is good, because I’m braced not to get anything much done while I’m on day job travel.

But, maybe that will change, too.


Off Into the Violet Skies

Anne Rice is always bragging on the violet skies of New Orleans. Well, Ms. Rice, I see your violet skies and raise you one. New Mexico totally wins.

I’m off to Baltimore this afternoon for the day job. I’ll be there all week, doing writing retreat at the beach over the weekend and in Philadelphia the following week. I’m hoping to see a few people while I’m in the area.

Meanwhile, Sapphire is up on Net Galley already! It’s also up on Amazon for pre-order and two people have added it to their to-read shelves on Goodreads. It’s all very exciting – and more than a little nervous-making. I’m not even sure I can define why. All this build-up gives me butterflies in the stomach. I’m sure once I walk out on stage, it’ll be fine. Right now I’m wondering if I’ll remember my lines.

Deep breaths.

Seeing Through the Fog

Overnight, all those overcast skies that have haunted us dropped down into the valley. I think this is a better photograph, more dramatic. I used the telephoto lens to show you how really neat it looks.

But that perspective is a bit misleading. Here’s how it looks with my other lens, that I usually use for landscapes.

Now it looks a bit less like the fog is billowing up for attack. But you also lose some of the sense of it. This is how our eyes – and brains – are still superior to cameras. I can look out and see both aspects at once. Not even as switching back and forth, but in combination with each other.

I think about this kind of thing a lot.

It seems that writing is a constant decision-process on which lens to use. Do I want to focus on the complex politics of my Twelve Kingdoms? On my heroine’s private pain? When do I back up and give a glimpse of all the tiers of people who make up life in the castle? When my hero and heroine are finally alone, do I leave the room? (It turns out that no, I am apparently incapable of leaving the room.)

There’s all sorts of rules for creating close point-of-view (POV), so the reader feels very involved in the story, but I seldom see advice on when to pan back. When to let the reader see the bigger picture. And yet, from these kinds of choices, extraordinary scenes are created. Sometimes you just have to follow your instincts, I suppose.

Or cheat, and show both.

A Reason to Say No

I’ve started querying agents again.

I know, I know. I said I didn’t think I wanted to. I still don’t think I want to.

But I want to give The Body Gift the best possible chances. So here I go again, go again. (Yes, I’m totally feeling like OK Go on the treadmills.)

So, you all know how it goes. The queries go out. Vast silence ensues. People are reading. Be very, very quiet so they can concentrate.

But, every once-in-a-while I get the insta-reject. Or near instant – within a few hours. I know these are from the readers whose mission it is to say no. They scan the incoming queries and hit the “no” button as soon as they find a reason to. This is how the business works and I totally understand that.

Still, it reminds me of an NYC editor friend. She was a friend of a friend, who came to visit, so I spent some social time with her. She published mainly celebrity tell-alls and kitschy coffee-table books. Once of her favorite rhetorics was “Give me a reason to say no.” Getting a book through all the layers of approval at her mighty publishing house was such an Olympian feat that, if she could at any point find a reason to say no to a project, she would.

I sometimes imagine how it would be if we all approached dating this way. The human race would die out.

But that’s neither here nor there. This is the cutthroat business of Big 6 Publishing.

It got me thinking though, because Jane at Dear Author, a blog I really admire for its forthright honesty, posted the other day about how agents are the unseen gatekeepers to reading. She referring to a daunting story where two successful authors collaborating on a project were told by a major agent that he/she would represent the book if they changed a gay character to straight, or cut him altogether. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over this because, thankfully, this sort of thing is just not acceptable to say anymore. At least in certain circles. That’s not to say that this sort of thing hasn’t been going on all along. Jane’s point, and I think it’s a really good one, is that most readers didn’t know it.

Why would an agent suggest such a thing? Right. It’s a reason to say no.

The agent is thinking ahead to the ladder of editors, the marketing folks, the distributors, the booksellers and imagining if anyone in that whole vast chain would say eek, we can’t sell a gay main character.

Not hard to imagine at all.

Maybe the dating analogy is relevant, after all. Agents like to say that they only represent projects that they fall in love with. To some extent I imagine that’s true. But I think it’s more to the point to say that they want projects they think other people will fall in love with. So it’s not so much if their date has a bad habit of slurping his soup or blowing his nose on the napkin, it’s more, will everyone fall in love with that strong jaw and those steely blue eyes.

The agent figures she’ll just keep him away from restaurants until the ring is on his finger.