This week of U.S. Thanksgiving, at the SFF Seven, we’re talking about Paying it forward. We’re asking:
Did anyone give you truly sound advice?
Did you have a mentor and if so how do you pay it forward without getting buried by requests?
I’ve been truly blessed in having numerous mentors and lovely, gracious people willing to give me advice. The one I’ll single out today is SFWA Past-President, Nebula-Award winner, and wonderful author of science fiction, sf mysteries, fantasy, and near future thrillers, Catherine Asaro. When I was shopping my first fantasy romance novel, sometime around 2008/2009, Catherine did me the huge favor of reading the book for me. I kept getting enthusiasm from agents and editors, and full manuscript requests, but they all came back with “no,” saying they didn’t know what to with the book or how to market it. I’d run out of ideas for how to revise the book so it would sell.
Catherine read it and said – the first person to say this to me – that the only “problem” was that I was writing cross-genre. She told me the story was good and that I was a good writer (things I desperately needed to hear), but that if I kept writing this fantasy + romance cross-genre, it would be like wading through hip-deep snow to succeed with it. She also told me she thought it was worth doing.
She was right on both counts.
As for paying it forward… I do that as much as I can. I volunteer to mentor through SFWA and other fundraisers. I offer advice in various arenas where I think people genuinely want to hear it. (Few things are more frustrating to me than putting energy into offering advice to people who don’t listen.) I have my podcast, First Cup of Coffee with Jeffe Kennedy, where I talk about writing and publishing (and other random thoughts). All of these venues allow me to control how much bandwidth I devote to mentoring others. In truth, I started my Author Coaching side business entirely so I’d have a way to charge money for my time and energy, when the bandwidth wasn’t enough.
That said, if you catch me in person at a con, I’m always happy to chat over an adult beverage. Offerings of chocolate are also acceptable!
I’m back from WorldCon in Chicago! Reporting on the convention – awesome – and how lovely Chicago was, along with thoughts on ballet and appearing effortless. Now l’m buckling down to finish SHADOW WIZARD!
Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee. Delicious.
Ah, today is Tuesday September Sixth and I am back I am back from my travels back here in the grape arbor as you can see if you are on video and um, yeah. Nice to be home. Um, travels were good though. Um, just came back from world con and Chicago which was fabulous. It was um, personally my best world con ever I very much enjoyed it. It was um the the layout was amazing because it was all in the single hotel all of the events and everything we’re all in the one hotel where most everyone was staying and that is just. Infinitely preferable to me. Ah these other world concept I’ve gone to Dublin Kansas City and San Jose they were all um in like convention center type things that were separate from the hotel. And in Dublin because the hotel was fairly expensive. We stayed at an airbnb that was a considerable distance. Um from the events of the convention and while I really like the place we stayed in. It’s just a totally different con experience.
Um, if you’re not staying where the convention is occurring when you have to deliberately go to the convention space to do things people tend to go there and leave whereas at the hotel you get to see people on their way to stuff so you see people much more. Also this was like our first at least for me and for many people first big convention since pandemic. So even though I had been to Bubonicon ah the weekend before and Jack Williamson lectureship in the spring. Even though I’ve done a few other things. This was the first big one and the first time that I had physically seen so many people and it was it was just a delight. It was really great to be able to hang out in the bar and talk to people again. Oh and Apollycon, I forgot that one Apollycon was different because we didn’t have a lot of author hangout time. Um, and this was great. Just lots of um, lots of talk. There are just.
Conversations that only happen in person and interactions that only happen in person and we kept talking about that throughout the entire convention about how meaningful that was just to be able to interact with people in person again. Saw lots of old friends. So lots of people that I have um like talked to online in the last few years it was interesting for me that this was the big first big convention I’d been to since I’ve been president of SFWA and um.
And it it was Nice. You know one thing that was really lovely and a lot of you all out there make this effort to but a lot of people came up to thank me for the work I’m doing which was immensely gratifying very Interestingly. Several people made a point of coming up to me and saying commenting on how very smooth my presidency has been and then adding that they know that that means that we’ve been handling a whole lot of stuff behind the scenes because things are never that smooth. And you know that’s that’s really gratifying too because that means that hard work doesn’t go unnoticed right? You know it’s one of those things you know like the ballet dancer who’s um, aesthetic whose whose whole effort whose goal. Is to appear to be graceful and to float and to be effortless. Ah meanwhile her tendons are screaming. Her toes are about to give way. Um, she’s sweating bullets but the audience sees the fairy Princess. Ah, and so it was really lovely to have people who appreciated both things who thought that the ballet was looking fantastic but also appreciated all of the sweating of bullets that had gone on in the background I had um a great.
Coffee with Catherine Asaro and she was ah she came and found me at my table talk and asked if and which was like second to last day and asked if I could have dinner or something like that and we ended up doing like schedule tetris to find. Ah, time to meet up and um I wasn’t sure what she wanted and Catherine Asaro if you don’t know has been around for quite a long time. She’s a former president of SFWA one of the um I think is at 8 or 9 I actually wrote it down.
Well, it turns out I only wrote down the number of grand masters there have been nine female grandmasters I think Mercedes Lackey makes 10 I need to update my numbers. But ah I’m I’m pretty sure this number sticks in my head but that I am the eighth female president of SFWA since 1965 so um, and Katherine Asaro is 1 of them and she was telling me something that I didn’t know it turned out. She didn’t really want anything in particular she wanted to tell me with a great job. She thought I was doing.
Um, the recognizing the ballet ah and she and and we just kind of gossiped I kind of told her stuff. It’s nice to talk to a former president because I can gossip about some things and they’ll keep it to themselves. You know it’s like oh this is what was going on behind the scenes. They can appreciate it. I also had some great conversations with Mary Robinette Kowal similar stuff and um, sorry I was just thinking about something Mary Robinette was telling me that I need to remember.
So but 1 thing that Catherine told me that I hadn’t known was that she was the one to appoint and McCaffrey Grandmaster and that was I hadn’t known that and and it’s so cool because as many of you know if you’ve been listening for a long time. Ah. And McCaffrey was is and will forever be 1 of my great heroes and it remains a um, a great sorrow to me that I never got to meet her but you know it’s like what is that? um one degree of separation is it 1 or 2 ah, you know. Knowing knowing people who knew her and McCaffrey was really my gateway gateway drug to fantasy and yeah, so and it was interesting to hear Catherine talk about that back in the day. Ah, there had been pushback on appointing and McCaffrey Grandmaster and you know and she said of course nobody would say exactly that they thought it was too girly but that that was the the subtext and.
Yeah, you know it’s um, it was just really good to to make that contact and talk with people. So yeah, we had a SFWA meet and greet. We did not have the suite this year people kept asking. Did we have one? no but we did have a. Ah, short meet and greet in the bar and yeah and I was on a bunch of programming sold some books at my signing table I’m like never again going to do a signing table without. The ability to sign books because none of the world con booksellers and there were a lot down in the dealers’ room. Um none of them carried my books I saw Jennifer Estep’s books though, sent her a photo of those. But yeah, not one of them had my books. And and this is actually partly my fault – mea culpa – that we could have emailed this um dealer’s email address and asked them to carry books. So maybe I’ll do that next time certainly what be next year next year’s world con is in. Chengdu China year after that is Glasgow year after that is Seattle ah I don’t know if I’ll go to Glasgow maybe um I saw that Dublin had put in a bid for another one. It would depend on if Glasgow would be this deal of.
Well, there were so many things wrong with Dublin those terribly terribly small meeting spaces that they you couldn’t get into any of the panels programming. So I don’t know if Glasgow would be the same deal but we’ll see two years down the road I’m not going to think about it now. So that’s my last convention for the year except for I guess I shouldn’t say it’s it’s penultimate convention except for a world fantasy con in New Orleans at first week of November which I’m very much looking forward to I will be. Ah, rooming with Kelly Robson her wife isn’t attending so Kelly and I will share a room that was that would be great I did get to see both Kelly and Alyx at WorldCon spent some time with them drinking wine that was.
Wonderful also ah went out for an amazing dinner Greek food inspired Greek which was so good. Ah, which you know makes me now understand how a lot of the other Greek food I’ve had is definitely uninspired.
I was on some excellent panels moderated some excellent panels. Ah right now it’s all kind of a blur ah stayed up too late talking to people in the bar as is my want.
Um, yeah, oh and also this was very cool. Um, the one of the great things about the location was it was the Chicago. Oh Hyatt Regency downtown and it was right on the riverfront and. Chicago this downtown was just amazingly beautiful. They have done so much to make it gorgeous and so you could go down and walk along that riverfront and I walked all the way down to the lake which wasn’t very far saw the marina and navy pier and all of those things. Um, they had the architectural boat tours leaving from like right in front of the hotel and I really wanted to go on one I went on 1 in like 2015 at RT we like took a cab downtown to take the architectural boat tour and it’s just one of the best things ever and I really wanted to do that. And just ran out of time 1 thing for me about being at conventions and I think I’ve mentioned this before you know, a lot of people go out and do touring around and see the city and that sort of thing and I always feel like I’m at the convention to talk to people that that’s my reason to be there and so. Going on the architectural boat tour wasn’t talking to people but I did get to go on a long walk along the riverfront um almost every morning all but 1 morning and then um, the final morning I got to walk all the way down to.
A beach one of my friends – Alex, a different Alex – had found this beach and so we went down on Sunday morning and went swimming and that was really great. Ah it was um. Yeah, it’s so cool the way lake shore drive divides downtown from the lake and they had closed lake shore drive. It was Sunday morning of labor day weekend and there were all of these bicyclists going up and down lake shore drive. They’d closed it traffic and that was so neat to see. Um. And it was kind of a stormy morning but we had timed it well before it started to rain and so we went swimming and then I walked back in time to clean up and see ah it was funny because I know I have this phrase from my mother. But I I used it twice ah to different response I should tell the story in order. So I had said to to Kelly ah, when I met her very early for breakfast one morning. Ah like. Six forty five she picked me up at six forty five and we went to this place at 7 that opened at 7 which is the um only morning I didn’t walk because of that and but we both had stop later that morning so it was like you know go have breakfast and so we can get back and I said okay well I’m not going to be cute.
And she said untrue and I was like well I’m not going to be fixed up for the day yet and and I’d said something similar to my friend Alex when we went swimming because I said well ah he kept track of how long it took to walk down there which I really appreciate it and I said well I’ve just padded you know, allowed enough time to to get cute and he said you are cute and I was like yeah so maybe I need a different phrase for me. It always means you know cute-ing up is like doing the makeup and hair thing right? getting. Putting the nice clothes on ah and I know but that my mom says that that we always say that you know like oh well I were going to be cute for this? Ah so so that was all was all good I’m sure I have thoughts. Ah, right now. My brain is still a little empty I flew back late Sunday night it was a little bit of a um, you know, grueling drive back after landing I was a little tired but got up yesterday morning did not podcast I just didn’t have. That much energy. But I did get some words written I have to finish shadow wizard this week people um I’m I’m actually in okay is shape on it. I’ve got about 17000 words to go but I really want to maybe get to the end.
This week there goes um, waffling on my determination right? The thing is let’s let me tell you about the thing. So let’s see I am at 72000 words 72,155 I’m guessing it’s going to come out around 89K um I’ve only got a few chapters left which is interesting because I haven’t gone back to revise from the beginning right? Longtime listeners will know that usually by now I have ah I would have done that and I haven’t which is interesting interesting to me. Process always changes. So I think I’m going to write pretty much all the way to the end. Um, but I don’t need to necessarily hit that 89 k because then I’m going to go back and revise from the beginning and as always I will undoubtedly add so I need um. About a week six working days to revise I’ve gone wood. Ah um, and then a few days to do my out loud proofing for the final pass to get it uploaded by.
What’s my drop dead date to upload.
Um, to to down September Twenty fifth so right now I feel like I’m in okay shape twenty days nineteen days um a little bit less because I I need a a day to format so three weeks think I can get this done. Um I’m thinking of ending it in a slightly different way. Ah, which I don’t feel like I could talk to you all about and get feedback because it might be too spoilery I might ask Carien I think I got a mosquito but on my forehead did i. Alas, so um, so yeah, just that’s the big focus now finishing this book and if I had another thought there that I may have lost to the mosquito bite. Um, yeah, it’s been an interesting book to write. There’s a lot of lot of layers to this 1 layers like a parfait. Ah yeah, so that that was about all I did yesterday I also took. Ah, nowp slept for like two and a half hours which I’m not typically a napper but it was funny because I finished writing it was like I got a little over a thousand words and which I thought was pretty good for my empty brain and then ate lunch spend a little time with David chatting and then.
Lay down slept for two and a half hours and I woke up at like a quarter to 5 which so I was like oh I napped all the way till happy hour so it felt like um Regency lady I’ve been reading more Lisa Kleypas and so that’s a. How that felt so um, on that note I’m going to see if I can have a more productive day today and oh ah, next week September Thirteenth bookbub featured deal. For Dark Wizard and it’s going to be free, free download to sort of goose goose the sales ahead of shadow wizard coming out so tell your friends tell your friends your family told them to read it and then buy the rest of the series right. And be ready for jadron and Cellie’s story all right hope you all have a wonderful Tuesday ah tomorrow I’ll be blogging at the SFF Seven so I won’t be here but I’ll be back on Thursday you all take care. Okay bye bye.
And it would help if like I can actually activate the button goodbye.
This morning I moved the houseplants outside to start the hardening off process.
I noticed in my wisteria-love fest the other day that last year in Laramie I moved the plants out on May 28. (I explained hardening off there, too, if you’re wondering what it is.) So Santa Fe has only moved me up by 16 days. Of course, we’ve been gone and I didn’t want the house-sitter to have to nurse them. I might have done it sooner than this.
We’ll see what next year brings. By all accounts it’s been a cool Spring all up and down the Rocky Mountain states.
But it’s snowing in Denver and Laramie, so I have plenty of smug to fill my bowl of contentment.
I talked to Catherine Asaro yesterday on the phone, about Obsidian, which she graciously read for me. She’s really a wonderful gal and a terrific writer, so if you haven’t read her, you should seriously pick up a book or two of hers. And I’m not just saying that because she read my mss and said lovely things about it.
So, while it was great to hear her tell me what a wonderful writer I am and how good the book is, there’s no super-new news there. She thinks I’m not going to get an agent with it because it’s too outside the box. She says that’s what I get for forging a new path. Which sounds kind of cool and glamorous, except that it really means that it’s difficult to sell.
“It starts out as excellent, gritty urban fantasy,” she says, “then moves into also excellent fantasy. But from a feminine perspective, which is really different.”
One of the things I’ve learned? When all those publishing industry folks say they’re looking for something really fresh and original, they’re not, really. What they want is the same creature dressed up in a fresh, new outfit.
Not that I’m bitter.
Actually, I’m not feeling bitter at all. Catherine says pitch directly to editors because I’ll surely find one who wants this. So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll keep working on Sterling, too, which (as I think I’ve mentioned twenty times or so) should fit quite neatly into urban fantasy, with no genre-defying cross-overs.
That always seems to be my deal – I do stuff that nobody gets, then five years later it’s the thing. It would be nice to think I’m cutting-edge, but really that seems to be someone else most of the time. Suddenly my thing that no one got is all the rage or even old hat.
I could give you a bunch of examples, but they’re boring. I swear it’s true.
When Catherine said that forging a new path is difficult, I pictured myself in a blizzard, struggling through knee-deep snow. Too dramatic? That’s how it feels. Ice pellets of rejection stinging your face, energy seeping out of your muscles until you feel like you’re simply too tired to go on.
But what’s the alternative? The literary equivalent of lying down in the snow to die. It would feel nice, I hear, the cold changing to warmth as hypothermia sets in. Yielding to the overwhelming sleepiness as the falling snowflakes bury you. Erasing you.