First Cup of Coffee – September 29, 2023

Thoughts today on focus, how to rebuild concentration, and the alarming truth that every interruption costs us 23 minutes of time to regain previous focus. Also more data on trad publishers buying mostly full manuscripts.

First Cup of Coffee – May 27, 2022

More on this series re-read I’m doing and how books hit us differently at various times in our lives. Also, author newsletters and what NOT to do, plus a happy report (at the end so you can nope out) on the 16/8 eating regimen.

Good morning everyone this is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee. Delicious.

Ah, so today is say with me Friday woo May Twenty seventh beginning of memorial day weekend here in the United States um interesting to see how this weekend goes huh we um, get Monday off federal holiday and here it’s traditionally about um, camping and doing. Barbecues and going to the lake or what have you kind of a right of the beginning of summer lot of ah schools getting out I do apologize to the. Lovely english teacher whose name escapes me at the moment commented on Facebook that may thirty first tuesday is her last day of school and she was looking forward to reading storm princess um, I’m close I’m close really. I passed um 89400 year years did you hear that eighty nine Thousand four hundred years people. Oh my god words eighty Nine Thousand four hundred words I should have known it was the kiss of death when early on I said that the book was. Seem to be writing too easily ha ha that means that the end was coming for me. Um, yeah, you guys know I hate writing like the fight and action scenes and like the whole end of this book is None big fight scene. But. Finally figured out how to extract themselves without killing everybody only a couple of characters. Die you guys don’t even believe me when I tease you like that. Ah yeah, so so it’s getting there. Um. I’m really glad that I didn’t have to try to get it done by yesterday. Why who I think there’s gonna be a None but thank you ah less smokeky today. But um. Definitely the pullman in the air.

so um so yeah I’ve got somewhere in the neighborhood of eight or nine thousand words to go then a revision pass on this last hundred pages that I’ve written and the proofing out loud and. Yes, some of you who offered to be proofreaders english teacher types in order to get to read earlier I may take you up on that cat hurt to have more eyes on it. So. This is the the test if you listen to the podcast actually I shouldn’t make that a barrier for entry but you know how it goes. Ah, so today I gave myself a lovely treat and that I did not look at my sifwa email at all I did address a couple of things but you know technically we’re supposed to be on hiatus right now and everybody is um. If. You’re not here in the us you know this I hate that we have to say it this way this latest mass shooting the most recent horribly tragic unthinkable mass shooting in a long chain of unthinkable ones. Ah, really. Has created ah a ripple I don’t know if it’s a different ripple than any of the ones before at right or coffee yesterday Jim was saying something about it and I said you know I’m trying not to be exhausted by this cycle and it probably doesn’t help that I’m otherwise fairly exhausted but. You know it’s just like these things keep happening and nothing changes. You know when right away the conservatives start spinning their bullshit and yeah Texas what are you gonna do with them I would say I wish. Well no I’m not even gonna say that loud. But yeah, it’s just um I guess you know Abbott says that he’s going to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. But. Then they’re all supposedly going to some big and n a national rifle association rally tonight with Trump which amusingly enough they have banned firearms from the event ah go figure. Anyway, you were not here to talk about that.

Although I should add the caveat that I am not anti-gun full stop by any stretch David has guns. He grew up in Wyoming using guns hunting um taught me how to fire a gun because he felt like if we were gonna have him. And the house I should know how which is true. None of my none published essay was about that learning to shoot a gun. Um, it would hurt my feelings if nobody had guns I’d actually be perfectly fine with that. But I’m also fine with responsible gun owners having. Access to to guns for um, you don’t like normal purposes not assault rifles used to murder people because that’s the thing is there’s there’s no other reason to have an assault rifle other than to kill people. Anyway I said I was going to stop talking about it. Hopefully there will be no violence this weekend as I mentioned I think in yesterday’s podcast you know people are riled up um popping with emotion you know. Years out of pandemic we still have covid cases. it’s um it’s a thing it’s a thing isn’t it all right? Let’s talk more about books and writing ah I thought it was amusing because assistant correne. Has been on a kick of um, unsubscribing from author newsletters and I don’t recall what got her started on this something annoyed her and I know I saw it in that but it’s fled out of my head but she. Started looking at all of the author newsletters that arrive in her inbox and the ones that a lot of them are from authors that she’s like never even read you know she did the thing where she signed up during some giveaway or another and she just decided to start cleaning them up. And she came across one the other day that the unsubscribe function on the newsletter was there which is required by law but it was in black font on a black background in the square. So that you couldn’t read it unless you moused over it unless you lit it up with your cursor and did the highlight a trickxie author trying to keep people from unsubscribing so I’m just gonna say here authors author people out there readers you.

Welcome to continue to listen and do your little fist pumps in the air because this is for you in part but I’m speaking to the author people I know that everybody tells you you have to have a newsletter I know everybody says it’s the. 1 property. You can control that it is the best way to reach readers that it’s the way to ensuring success and riches and I don’t know ah dancing people of your preferred gender in skimpy outfits. Ah. All of this and more will be yours if only you have a newsletter and I know that a lot of you do the newsletter swaps that there are sites set up where you can put out there to do swaps with other authors and you know try to reach each other’s audiences and that one of the things that you. Talk about in those authors swaps is how many subscribers you have and bragging rights I have 30000 subscribers. Well, that’s awesome. It doesn’t matter if they’re not actually reading your fucking newsletter I mean you can get all. Absorbed in the click to open rates and all of this stuff what it comes down to is and I I have to duck the sunlight here I wanted to lean into the camera meaningfully. But I guess I don’t get to what it comes down to is. You ah, the whole point. The whole freaking point is that you are trying to let readers who want to read your books know that they’re available right? This is very simple. Which means that you shouldn’t be doing tricksy stuff to keep them from unsubscribing or you know, hammering at them with a blunt instrument like you are somehow going to force people to deliver those sales or patriots. I don’t understand why this is so hard. Um, and I won’t continue to rant about it but don’t do fuckery like that come on and I know most of you don’t readers if you um. Want to subscribe to an author’s Newsletter. You do not have to I know some of them are great. Some of them deliver cool stuff. I know mine is um, mine is utilitarian karing sends it for me. So I don’t have.

Delicious yumminess in there I think you get most of personal delicious le yumminess here. But um, mine’s informational now here you go now you get to know what’s going on. Um, yeah. So the other thing I’ve still been continuing my massive read of the author that I have not named although now at this point I kind of want to because even though I bitched about a couple of her books I mean she is keeping me going I am this has been. Hell a stressful week and it’s um, I’ve been glomming these books and what’s interesting is I’m trying to think of how to describe this. So like there’s the none few books where with. The same protagonists and then along the way she started doing sort of the the spinoff novels of other side characters giving them their stories. That’s a pretty standard thing to do right? and. She has the reading order on our website and I’d worked my way through like None or None books of that main arc and then I decided maybe I should go back and catch up on the intervening novellas you know that’s why I looked up her reading order and also um. Like some of these spinoff series because the arc does braid and interweave and I’m freaking to join them. What’s really interesting is like those none couple of spinoff books. And the one that I’m reading now which is a spinoff of another character so that makes three day um had him on my Kindle bottom ten years ago more and. Even though I’m very familiar with the books and their premise I think I like maybe I only read the none chapters of them. There was a very long stretch there beginning in 2009 ish when we moved to Santa Fe and it it. could even have begun a little bit before that 2007 ah ish when I none moved into writing fiction. It was when we left the marsial arts school. We’ve been part of for None ears and I got was no longer sleep deprivved and got some of my life back.

I’d been reading all that time. But I’d only been reading and then I began writing novels and I wrote the book that became rogues pawn I’ve seen the cover concept for it ravins sent me to set me the cover concept. She sent me like oh I’d like None concepts and None of them were all. Ah. Exactly what? I’d expected her to send and the other one was something that was so different. It was electrifying and I was like I want this electrifying cover and she said oh good. That was my favorite too. So that’s like I can’t wait for you guys to see that’s it’s really cool. Yeah. Ah, dare I say trend setting I am not much of a trend setter but I could almost see this one being trend setting. So 2009 we left Laramie Wyoming where we’ve been living for 20 years moved to Santa Fe and following that was when I really started digging. Into seriously writing um getting back into my writing habit I remember putting up a blog post I should see if I could find it. It would be funny to link to be funny to read again that was something like now where did I pack my writing career. Boy that was a tumultuous time but from then until about 2014 so about a 5 year stretch there. Um I was just burning it at all ends. Um I still had my career type job. As an environmental consultant I was hugely busy with that. Ah I finally got my my 3 book deal with Kensington I don’t maybe at the end of none that book came out none something like that. But it’s interesting to me because there’s this whole stretch of time where I do not remember the media that I consumed going back to these books that I read at the time I know that that was when my tbr piles really started to mushroom I had so many books that I was acquiring and not reading. And some of that happens when you begin to write very seriously. It takes up like all of your reading bandwidth too. So those none those None books of the spinoff characters and possibly some of those novels in the main arc I think I may have only read part of them.

Could have been that I read only the teaser chapter at the end of the previous book and bought it and then never read it because I remember like reading the book I remember like nothing of the rest of the book which is kind of a treat to read them now. Um, but yeah, definitely. Through this phase of reading books I don’t remember and David Nine husband when we’re looking for movies to watch if we find movies that are like from that 2009 to 2012 era that was like when we were switching over from getting the mailed in Netflix movies doesn’t that seem like ancient history now. Um there was this little video store here in our neighborhood but it was not very good and we didn’t have a great place in Santa Fe or rent movies. But I was resisting buying the whole. Cable package and you couldn’t do that piecemeal service thing yet. So anyway, there are if we find a movie that looks interesting and we and it’s from that time span we’re like oh we should watch that because we know that we like either missed it or. For me, it goes longer up to like that none timeframe when I was watching things and I was like doing social media on my laptop at the same time and I remember nothing of these movies I like totally did not pay attention to them. So. I guess it gives me lots of stuff to go back to and re-experience. But I think it just is a good It’s a good lesson in that the way books set us at particular times what we like what we don’t like I remember that spinoff book. I may have read more than the none chapter of it and I remember not liking it at all and this time when I read it I was like why did I not like this I don’t even understand I totally glomed it so much is what we bring to the page. Um, so um, now. In in other news. None quick thing is tap out now if you’ve got if you don’t want to hear about like weight stuff body image stuff but I am officially down 10 pounds on this none fasting fasting for 16 hours eating during an 8 hour window I also have cut out additional sugars. So that’s made a difference. The best part is I’m down £10 overall but I’m also down like none of fat because my scale tells me and.

This is the I think first time I have found an eating regimen that affects the fat that way I think it really truly does target that insulin resistance. So this is amazing for me I’ve lost two inches around my waist and i’m. Very excited and also I think this is sustainable I’m very interested to see where my body settles out I was plateaued for a very long time and now it’s like a couple months it is slow. You guys if you’re tempted to do this. This is a slow method. It does not melt away the pounds like. You know, like doing keto or something like that. But it’s um, it. It feels healthier. It works well with how I tend to eat anyway, I remember being a young woman in my you know in college or in grad school. You know that I would do this anyway because I would be busy and I would often eat one meal a day. Um or I would have a few snacks but I had long fasting periods and I could totally see how my body is well adapted to this so pretty cool. All right I’m gonna go get to work. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend long weekend or not I will do a podcast on Monday. Um, yeah, because that’s could be a workday for me I have to finish this freaking book right so all right I’m gonna get t work you all you go do your thing. Um. Stay away from the and grew crazy. So you all take care by bye.

Before You Weep Over that Review…

I made a mistake when I took this photo. Apparently I moved the camera at precisely the right moment to create a shadow image. I had no idea I’d done it at the time. Only when I looked through the backlog of images on my camera this morning did I see it. I kind of like it.

It’s a good reminder.

The hoopla over “bad” reviews and various author reactions seems to be growing worse, not better. I put this down to several factors. Mainly, there are a lot of people who eat up this drama and love it when a new fight breaks out. These are the people who run around yelling “Fight! Fight!” while rounding up everyone they can find to scream from the sidelines. This is the reality TV of the interwebs. And, to follow up that analogy, the book reviewers and authors have discovered that this kind of fame is still fame. It’s all, as I’ve mentioned before, the chocolate-covered heroin of attention. A hit is a hit, after all. It might be the poisonous grade, but it’s better than jonesing.

At any rate, I don’t read all of my reviews. I read some, here and there. Especially if the reviewer calls my attention to it. But I’m fragile enough that I often skip the low-star reviews. I know, I know. Toughen up, sweetheart.

Eh, I’m not much for pain, outside certain contexts.

Then, the other day, I saw a book blogger on Twitter mentioning my name along with several other authors, saying she was doing a giveaway of some of her new favorite authors. I tweeted her back with a thank you and she replied that she was happy to, that she’d loved Sapphire. Surprised I’d missed a “loved” mention on a book blog – and, ok, maybe ready for a little hit of heroin – I looked at the review. Now I remembered seeing it. I hadn’t read it before, because she only gave it three stars.

Turns out, she uses a scale of zero to four stars. And she rated it low because she thought it was too short. (It’s amazing how many reviewers will do this. Feeding the Vampire gets low stars all the time for being too short. It’s one of the great drawbacks of digital presentation, I think. Had Feeding the Vampire been in a short story collection, for instance, no one would have felt betrayed by its brevity. But, because readers don’t necessarily pay attention to length when they buy and download, they settle in to read a novella or novel, only to have it end when they expect the story to be ramping up. I don’t blame them a bit – I’d likely feel the same way.)

Still, the point is, you never really know what you’re going to get and who will turn out to be a supporter. She didn’t have to include me in this special giveaway with these well-established authors. I didn’t expect such enthusiasm from that quarter.

Sometimes you look again, and see something you didn’t before.

Writers’ Heroin

These little bushtits are such happy birds. They swarm the bark butter, singing a whispery tune and vanish again.

I’m going to take a bit of a departure today from my series on How My Day Job Has Made Me a Better Writer, but I’ll be back with it tomorrow.

I was talking with a Twitter friend who’s looking at having her first book published. She’s all agog with excitement, of course. And the online community has been great to her, with congratulations and support. Now, however, it’s hitting her that by the time the book comes out, people’s attention may have drifted and maybe no one will notice at all then.

She’s actually pretty insightful to recognize this pitfall.

See, for writers, attention is our most addictive drug.

We’re like affection-starved children who’ve grown up without human contact. It sounds dramatic, but so much of being a writer, especially in the early years, involves being alone with only your words for company. Nobody else sees your work, largely because no one cares, even if you dare tell anyone about it. You begin to feel like the mad scientist hermit, muttering to yourself, chasing some ever-mutating dream of creation. You become very accustomed to not being noticed. Even if you have a regular life, with people who love you, the crazy-writer side is usually locked away where she can’t frighten people.

Then, when she’s cleaned up enough to be trotted out into polite society and people pay attention to that side of you – and bettter, PRAISE you for it – well, it’s overwhelming. It’s like getting chocolate after a lifetime of rice. It’s rich and lovely and can totally screw you up.

Because, you see, the attention is almost instantly addictive. You find yourself craving just a little more. You start doing and saying things just to elicit a little more attention. You search for reviews and mentions. You reread old praise, reliving the glory days.

Before you know it, you’re the crack-whore on the corner of Twitter offering anything if people will just throw a crumb of attention your way.

I can’t tell you not to taste the attention. After all, it’s arguably one of the few rewards writers receive, until they’re really making the money. And besides, unless you’re a total recluse, you’re gonna get it. But know that it’s addictive. That it’s chocolate-covered heroin with no nutritious value.

In the end, the only thing that really matters is the writing.

The Treadmill

Long a symbol of going nowhere, the treadmill seems a creature of tedium rather than agent of chaos that can unseat you. This is the treadmill’s secret weapon. It camoflages itself as the slow and steady, the reliable pace at a given incline. It lulls you with its consistency. Waits for that moment, the brief break of inattention to attack.

This morning, David was running next to me on the treadmill at a steady pace, when he snagged his hand in the cord running from his MP3 player to his headphones. The MP3 fell, hit the belt, which zinged the little box like a bullet. I heard the SNAP crack through my own music and looked over to meet the equally startled gaze of the guy on the elliptical on the other side of David. Between us, David also looked around for his player, and promptly zinged off the back of the treadmill himself.

I’d done it once, too. One of the first times I went to the rec center, back when my lack of fitness and excess body fat confined me to walking the treadmill. I walked slowly, steadily. It was pretty dull, really. When I decided to pull off my sweatshirt, I didn’t give it a second thought. Of course I can keep walking at a normal pace, especially one regulated for me, while pulling off a shirt.

But as soon as my eyes were muffled — I zinged off the end of the treadmill. Nearly into the laps of some innocent people walking around the track. I flailed a bit, still caught in my sweatshirt. A bit confused about what happened, but still pretty much on my feet. Behind me, the treadmill softly chuckled to itself.

I suppose it’s a lesson in attention. That even the most dull and reliable features of our lives can suddenly throw us to the side in a heap. Perhaps it’s the most dull and reliable that bear the most watching. Those things that become so familiar we cease to pay attention to them. We get comfortable, trust them to pace along at exactly the settings we’ve previously designated and turn our attention to other things.

One of these days, we’ll know better.