San Diego Comic Con and Cross-Promo Etiquette

Evening thunderstorms in Santa Fe make for gorgeous sunsets!

I’m super excited making plans with Grace (Darling) Draven for San Diego Comic Con. She was originally coming along as my guest, hoping to keep a low profile and just enjoy some girl time. Now her publisher found out she’s going, so I get to go to the Penguin-Random House party as her guest. We’ve also made plans to meet up with our readers who don’t have passes to the Con itself. For anyone interested in the San Diego area, Grace and I will be at the Marriott Marquis pool bar by 8pm on Friday, July 19. We’ll hang there until 10pm, when it closes. I think some intrepid fans have a plan to get there early and snag a seating nook. It might be mobbed, but we’ll be there! We’re both traveling light, so we won’t have much stuff with us, but we’ll be happy to sign books, swag, underwear (I really did this once – clean and unused, however) that you bring. We’ll also be at our leisure to chat, discuss, and answer questions. Sorry to make you all come down to the Comic Con crush, but that’s how we could fit this in.

I’ll also be on a panel and signing at the TOR booth with giveaways of THE ORCHID THRONE. Details here.  

It’s going to be so fun!

The last few days on my podcast, First Cup of Coffee with Jeffe Kennedy, I’ve been talking about the difference between marketing and promotion, and also social etiquette for asking for cross-promotion with other authors. If you listened there, I’m going to say pretty much the same thing here. I tried doing transcriptions of the podcast, for those of you who don’t like to listen to stuff, but it takes me close to an hour to correct a 20-minute podcast. Plus it costs me .10 cents/minute. I did add a donation button on the podcast, to help supplement the costs, but that’s just way too much time. So I’m going to make an effort to discuss important stuff (not cat wrangling, hummingbirds and notes on the weather – regular features of the podcast) here on the blog, too.

What happened to set me off was I received an email addressed to “Dear Author Friends” that then apologized for the mass email, blamed social awkwardness for it, and then proceeded to deliver a slick publicity package for her new series, asking me to share pre-prepared quotes, memes, etc.

It came to my semi-secret email, the one I reserve for friends and business folks like my agent and editors, and I had no idea who this author was. Not a friend, that’s for sure.

I did search of my Outlook items and found her. We were on a panel together two years ago – and I used that “good” email address for discussions about the panel. She harvested my email address, put it in this list of “author friends” and gave it to a publicity person who put this email together for her. Some of my real author friends who looked at the letter recognized some of the language as being canned.

So here’s a hint, for anyone thinking about doing something similar. Yeah, maybe some of those people you blitzed will post your promo for you. But for many of us, that’s just a really good way to piss off your author community. If you can’t take the time to contact me directly and personally – and there are a LOT of ways on social media to reach me or my assistant – then why will I spend my time, or pay for my assistant’s time, to help you?

Also, I don’t care who you are. If you take someone’s email address from a business correspondence and use it to send a mass email to promote your book? You, my so-not-a-friend, are an email spammer. There’s a special circle of hell for spammers.

I often cite cross-promotion with other authors as my favorite kind of promotion. It’s also by far the most effective. Witness what a great team Grace and I are, as above. But please notice that Grace and I are FRIENDS. I want her to succeed and she wants the same for me. We share a lot of readers, and that’s awesome. We also share mutual regard and sincere good wishes for each other. That’s what networking is about. Grace and I first “met” online because of our readers cross-recommending us. We had coffee at a con and became friends. (That infamous coffee date ended up lasting three hours because we clicked. That doesn’t always happen, but sometimes it does.) Using the network of your author friends should be entirely predicated on FRIENDSHIP, which means a reciprocal relationship. I’m not talking quid pro quo or bean-counting. I’m talking about good will, about sincere regard and good wishes.

Not spam.

Of Grapes, Blue Moons and Real Writers

P1012771My attempt at capturing the blue moon, the morning of August first. It’s a mark of how fast this month is flying by that it’s now August 14 and I’m just now putting it up on the blog.

What have I been doing? I’m not at all sure…

I’ve been writing and working in the grape arbor quite a bit. That means I sit too much, but I kind of hate being inside at the treadmill desk when the weather is so beautiful. The grapes are all ripening and it makes me happy to see them hanging heavy and full of sunshine around me.

I’m working on a new book – a contemporary erotic romance. Or maybe it will be just really hot. I’m not writing this one to contract or spec this time – for the first time since, wow! 2012 – and it feels different. Totally my choice to do it this way, as there is a PLAN. I’m excited about the concept but the hero and heroine both have *totally* different lives and careers than anything I know well or understand. Just to make things difficult on myself! Interestingly, my author buddy Anne Calhoun is writing a new book with similar themes. And yet our two stories are completely different. We talk out plot ideas and brainstorm, so we know what the other is doing and still the tales wend in different directions. I’m always fascinated when that happens. She texted me on Wednesday about her progress and I texted back that I was in the midst of interviewing a guy so I could learn about my hero’s career. Then yesterday she had lunch with a guy so SHE could learn about her hero’s career. I laughed and said “Look at us!” She replied, “all researchy like real writers.”

This is an ongoing thing, feeling like a “real” writer or not. The number of books out there, the publishing contracts from which houses or not, the awards, the reviews – somehow none of it ever feels like it cements the “real writer” identity. Maybe because each book feels like such an immense new challenge to write. That’s probably good, because it means I’m stretching myself. Growth is painful, right? Knowing that doesn’t abate the discomfort, however.

I’ve also been teaching an online class the last couple of weeks, on building sexual tension. That’s always fun. Teaching other people how I do something helps clarify some of it in my mind.

Next week is the traditional family Birthday Weekend. We’re spending it in Maine and New Hampshire this year! David has never seen New England so I’m really excited for this.

Also: fresh lobster!

Happy weekend everyone! 🙂

On Monsoon Rains and Sharing Creativity

monsoon trackingEvery morning when I start up my internet browser, the 10-Day Weather Forecast is one of the tabs that opens. This time of year I watch it very closely, hoping for the monsoon rains to start.

If you’re not familiar with the desert southwest, the monsoon rains are pivotal for us. If we’re lucky, they start in late June and then continue through August. It’s our wettest season – a relative term for most of you – and one we depend on to save us from becoming as barren as the Sahara. As the spring heats up, we dry out. June is hot, dry and windy. It’s not the gentle onset to summer that so many parts of the country have. It’s scorching. It’s when the fires start.

So, we anticipate the monsoons, hoping and praying for the cooling, drenching rain to arrive. In monsoon season, we have bright sunny mornings, clouds roll in by noon, heavy rain until about 4 or 5 pm, and then clear, cool evenings. I’ve learned that the monsoon’s begin when the dew point – the green line in the top graph above – meets or crosses the temperature, the red line. Sure enough, next week that green line finally rises up near that red line and – oh look! – RAIN.

It feels like a miracle poised to occur. A joyful, life-giving one that everyone can share in.

In what feels like a parallel to me, yesterday I talked on Twitter with this gal, Elizabeth Lane. She tweeted:

 

Now, she had mentioned something along these lines before. Other people have made similar comments about Ruby, because the hero is a chef at a five-star restaurant in New Orleans. I get little notes along the lines of “Tell Bobby Prejean to make me a sandwich!” fairly frequently. Or they make noises about recreating a certain chocolate fondu scene. *ahem* I figured Elisabeth meant something similar, but when I saw this yesterday, I asked if she really meant it. She replied:

 

So, a bit chagrined, I went and looked at her website.

 OMG you guys! You have to look at what she’s doing. She reads romance novels and picks out certain meals to recreate and then blog about. I may be in love. Once I (belatedly, yes, I know) figured this out, I had to go back to Ruby to figure out which meal she’s doing. After all, there are A LOT in that particular story, as I’m sure you can imagine. Besides, if she was talking mango and cilantro, that was NOT the chocolate fondu scene. Instead it’s this one:

A small table in the corner under draping vines awaited her, lit with candles. A stand held a silver champagne bucket, and the maitre d’ poured a glass for her. The label was French and looked old, not one she recognized. The wine evaporated on her tongue, the sublime effervescence filling her head.

If she didn’t know better, she’d think she was being courted.

Course after course arrived, thoughtful, perfect presentations of the most succulent food she’d ever tasted, all on small plates. She began to feel like a pampered pet, coaxed into trying just a bit more. A popover, lighter than air, a hint of honey-butter perfuming it. A single oyster on the half shell, presented with a subtle sage breading that reminded her of Thanksgiving. Three sea scallops, sautéed to perfection, sweetly juicy and served each in a pool of its own sauce—one a piquant cilantro, the next a peppered mango and the final one a variation on the barely bitter chocolate he’d served that morning, strangely perfect with the salty counterpoint.

She inhaled the Caesar salad—the dressing exquisite, the anchovies aged in a smoky oil. When the waiter reverently laid the main course before her, a perfectly golden mini-soufflé of crab and nine aged cheeses, she heard a woman at the next table inquire about it, only to be told it was reserved for special customers. A heart carved into the crust, inlaid with a brush of cinnamon, confirmed it.

Prejean finally joined her, as she finished the soufflé. He gave her plate a long look and raised his eyebrows, the gold hoop winking. “Any good?”

Elisabeth says she’s focusing on the sea scalllops. Then the best part for me is, when someone else asked when this would go up, she said:



Do you see? She’s INVENTING the recipe from my story! Because, well, she pretty much had to, since I totally made it up. Some of the meals in this story are ones I’ve had in New Orleans restaurants or elsewhere. Others are ones I looked up. Some are ones I fabricated because they sounded delicious and sensual to me. And now Elisabeth is making it real, in a different way than I made it real. It’s like that rising dew point, that passes a certain threshold and makes it rain.

Finally, speaking of blessings from above and turning points, that starred Library Journal Review for The Mark of the Tala is finally available online, I love, love, love this review! Here it is:

OrangeReviewStar de Castell’s Debut of the Month, Romantic Fantasy from Kennedy, Zombie Horror, & More  | SF/Fantasy ReviewsKennedy, Jeffe. The Mark of the Tala. Kensington. (Twelve Kingdoms, Bk. 1). Jun. 2014. 338p. ISBN 9780758294432. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780758294449. FANTASY

markofthetala062714 de Castell’s Debut of the Month, Romantic Fantasy from Kennedy, Zombie Horror, & More  | SF/Fantasy ReviewsAs the middle daughter of the High King, Andi isn’t the warrior (that’s older sister ­Ursula) or the beautiful one (younger sister Amelia has that sewn up), but she does have a distinct tie to her mother’s people, the Tala, that might change the balance of power in the realm. No one in the Twelve Kingdoms speaks of the dead queen or the Tala, so when Andi, while out riding, meets the mysterious Rayfe, she is stunned to find out that he is king of the Tala and that she is destined to be his queen. ­VERDICT The fairy-tale setup only hints at the depth of worldbuilding at work in this debut series. What could be clichéd is instead moving as Andi is torn between duty to her father and the pull of Rayfe and his kingdom. Andi starts out passive, in the shadows, and insecure but experiences great growth as the story develops. This well-written and swooningly romantic fantasy will appeal to fans of Juliet Marillier’s “Sevenwaters” series or Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown.

 

And it’s going to rain. Life is pretty wonderful. Happy weekend, everyone!

Cats and Oklahoma Weather

005I’m so happy that (new) cat Jackson and (old) cat Isabel get along so well. It doesn’t always work out that way and is so lovely when it does.

This evening I pick up my boss/colleague Laurie and we’re driving over to Oklahoma City for some meetings tomorrow. Then we’ll drive back tomorrow night and she’ll spend a couple of days here in New Mexico. Should be quite the whirlwind!

Otherwise, I’m over at the Contemporary Romance Cafe tomorrow (May 1), talking about where I write. Which, of course, involves treadmill desks. 🙂 If you’re a regular reader here, it won’t be anything new to you. Except to say that I figured out I’ve walked over 150 miles in April and have logged over 61,000 words. It’s been a busy, productive month for me.

Which is good, because Ursula’s book is being kind of wrenching to write. It’s due June 1, so I anticipate May will be another 60K+ month.

Think No-Tornado Thoughts for me!

In Which I Am FAMOUS

Isabel and Jackson napped together all afternoon. It’s so lovely seeing them be companionable.

 So, some fun things. You can see a picture of me on the New York Times business page here on slide #2!

 

And also? A pic of me in this video! (I’m at 2:20, if you want to expedite the process.)

Don’t I totally ROCK? Or, rather, doesn’t the very cool chick who photographed me at the convention totally rock? I feel like sending her expensive chocolates and cheap champagne. Or vice-versa. I don’t know her that well.

As for today, this might be my last Monday post for a while. Via Roni Loren’s Fill Me In Friday blog, I ran across this post, about blogging less than five days a week. It really struck home, because I’ve been noticing a lot of you check in only once or twice a week – much like his readers. And, gods know, now that I’ve got three series going and my AGENT (okay, I’m still a little giddy over that) I shopping yet another, I don’t need to blog every day.

So THIS? My official announcement that I’ll be putting up blog posts on Tuesday, Friday and at Word Whores on Sunday. Just *think* of the improved quality! The condensed intensity! The sheer reduction of emails in your In-Box!

Yes, I know what’s important to you.

Getting Pounded – and Surviving

We had this massive hailstorm the night before last. We’d been getting evening rains, but this one turned black, with a pounding downpour. When you have a flat roof, like many of us here in New Mexico do, you really hear the rain come down, drumming just overhead. So, when the hail started, it sounded no different at first. But as it grew in size, it became sharper, heavier, more dramatic.

Then these started falling:

Let me tell you – when a chunk of ice that size hits your skylights? (and we have five) It sounds like being under artillery fire.

(Or how I imagine being under artillery fire would sound, since I’ve lead a blessed life and have never experienced such a thing. Actually, I’m pretty sure being under artillery fire probably sounds much worse and is far more scary, but I’m going for the dramatic analogy here.)

David and I kind of paced from window to window, staring out in awe. The desert ground looked like it was jumping with fleas, constantly in motion. The water shot off the roof canales with such speed and volume that it fell past the rain barrel catchments. And yet, they all totally filled anyway. We stared up at the skylights, fully expecting one of these missiles to rocket through.

Just amazing when something like that occurs and you just have to wait it out.

Mother Nature rules.

In the aftermath, we found that our grape arbor, which had been heavy with just-ripe grapes is nearly completely decimated. Grapes and leaves are two-inches thick on the ground. Other plants, like the Russian Sage, look like nothing happened. Our jelly feeder out front was battered to bits, while the agave below it appear untouched.Within moments of the rain and hail easing, the towhees and hummingbirds were out again, happily feeding. I have no idea where they sheltered.

This says something about resilience to me.

That and the fact that our skylights seem to be just fine. And that I’m contemplating making grape jam.

Attack of the Zombie Miller Moths!

Yesterday, without warning, they attacked.

I innocently stepped into the backyard yesterday afternoon. The sun was lowering with soft golden light, the lilacs glowed, redolent and sweet. And a cloud of miller moths lifted from the lilac blossoms. 

Thousands of them. Everywhere.

Now I’ve lived in the Rocky Mountain West most of my life and we who live here know of the annual spring miller moth infestations. Some years are worse than others, following some arcane cycle of moisture and warmth. There are tales of people filling vacuum cleaner bags full of the things without making a dent.

I’ve never seen anything like this.

I’m just relieved I put the screens on last weekend. Last night, hoards of the moths flung themselves against the screens, mindlessly groaning to come in. (Okay, maybe they weren’t groaning.) You can see that the guard cat was ready to take action, should they come crashing through.

This morning, there is no sign of them, except a stray fluttering here and there. It’s like the dawn after the horror movie’s endless night. The birds sing sweetly. We feel relieved and happy.

But tonight… tonight the shadows will lengthen, the sun will set.

Run away!