First Cup of Coffee – July 7, 2022

Print version of ROGUE’S PAWN is available! I’m also talking about some history, mean reviews from the past, the conversation about whether authors should talk to readers, “hidden gems” & asking for recs.




Transcript
00:02.90
jeffekennedy
Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee. Delicious Today is Thursday July seventh and it’s it’s a Thursday here we are I’m feeling so behind on all of the things and I was excuse me complaining to David about it saying why am I so behind on everything. Have I been saying this for a while I kind of feel like I’ve been behind since a nebula conference. But then in June I went traveling for a week right? And then I’ve had friends here which hasn’t been that intensive but it’s been. Disruptive you guys know how I don’t like my schedule to be disrupted I am also totally aware now of how ubiquitous the phrase you guys is it’s in movies. It’s everywhere I am trying to lense it from my vocabulary with limited success thus far. Least I’m aware of saying it but a lot of people say it. So um, so yeah, I’m really hopeful this weekend that I can get caught up on some stuff. David asked me this morning. If I had ridden my bike that we let’s see when we came back from Tucson in April April while we were gone I had it. At the bike shop so they could tune it up so because it wasn’t in shape to ride and I wanted to ride it and I was pulling into the garage last night and saw my bike there poised in front of my car and David asked me if I had ridden it since we picked it up and the answer is no I have not spent. Hundred and fifty dollars to get all tuned up and ready and I haven’t touched the fucking thing but but you know for a while it was really windy and then it’s I don’t know I have no excuse except that. Just feel like I haven’t had time and so I was starting to say hopefully this weekend I would get caught up on a bunch of stuff I’m hoping to but then on the weekend I also want to relax. So maybe I can go for a bike ride I have.

02:50.31
jeffekennedy
Ah, shit ton of stuff to mail out and I think would help me I I keep thinking in terms of and I do this to myself a lot where I want to get everything ready so I can mail it all out at once and and it creates this enormous bottleneck whereas what I should do is just mail things out gradually. So I do have print copies of storm princess I need to mail those I should just start mailing. Um, mailing mailing so some of it requires. Research like what is the least expensive way to send a thing and well I feel like I almost need a step by step list. Um I also feel like I need that with some of the side projects you know like. Rogue’s pawn is out but already I need to be thinking about getting book two rogue’s possession I just have to make a few changes to it. That’s these little tasks right? and making good progress on shadow wizard I’m having a lot of fun writing jeron. Even sent a snippet to caring yesterday I should ask her if it’s too spoilery because I’m thinking about posting it. You guys know. Ah you all know that I don’t um, post a lot of snippets of my work in progress. But I’m tempted to post this one. 1 of the things on my list is get to get the preorder set up for shadow wizard. So just all these things to do. Um I need to ship stuff out for a polycon too. And yeah. So let’s see. Yeah um, Kelly and Alex are only here for two more days they fly out on Saturday. So um, so we’re doing some fun things today and tomorrow which won’t help with getting caught up. But maybe I could get a few of these tasks. Done. So let’s see um one thing that was um, just this kind of funny serendipitous thing was I complained to a group of authors I was emailing with.

05:26.65
jeffekennedy
We were emailing about something else organizing a thing but I was um I was being cranky and I apologize for being cranky and I said that part of it was because um, what was of miscellaneous things. But anyway we got into telling these stories about I’m trying to say if I want to tell you I don’t want to sound ungrateful or like a bad person I’m still thinking about Mary Robinette talking about. Ah. Like apologies on the internet and are you really trying to apologize or do you want people to think that you’re a good person because don’t we all want people to think we’re good people and sometimes we’re not sometimes we’re not a good person. Um, so okay so I’ll be honest. Ah I saw this Instagram post from a reader who did a really nice post showing one of the uncharted reless books and she called it an underrated series. And she loves it and I love that she loves it and it’s it’s meant in all sincerity and but you know it’s just sometimes when you’ll it’s like one of my oldest series and when. I don’t know when somebody calls it underrated I understand what they mean they mean that it doesn’t have the fandom you know like Sarah J Mos or Jennifer O out arm in Trump which is absolutely true. It’s it’s not as well known, but it still. It just put me in a little bit of a mood where I was just like and I think I was already in that mood because I was talking about this some at the beginning of the week it’s just like I don’t know every once in a while and and people do mean it in all sincerity and enthusiasm. But you encounter readers. Who um, discover your books and they’re like why haven’t I heard of your books before and you’re like it’s the million dollar question I don’t know why I wish you had I’m glad you know now. So i. I hesitate to complain about that kind of thing because I don’t want anyone to not share about in fangirl. My books. You know? So um, but it’s still I don’t know it was a mood and.

08:12.92
jeffekennedy
So I I shared this with these girls and said you know and one of them wrote back to me and she said Jeffe I want you to know that a few weeks ago I was at a book signing and a reader came up to me and she said ah. That I that she knows I’m new to this and that but that I’m very talented and she really hopes that I keep going which is a lovely thing to say right? The thing is is it wasn’t for that this author it was she said it was like for the 7th book in her sixth romance series. You know? So it’s like but you know hope you keep going and one of the other girls chimed in and said that she saw a Tiktok video that was like on hidden gems. Which you know people like to do and it’s a wonderful impulse because it’s like let’s not all always post about the same 5 books and I’m seeing more and more complaints about this kind of thing. Um, even my assistant said something about it the other day after I’d heard some other people complaining about it where she was saying. She was finding it hard to get good book recommendations because everybody recommends the same 5 books and and there’s a cultural phnom to that right? because the people who are posting like the Tiktok videos and so forth they want their posts to be. Liked and get a whole lot of comments. So if you post about something that I just knocked myself off the ledge here. Oh there we go um, overly dramatic. Not much but you know you you if you post about a book that already has a huge fandom. You’re much more likely to get attention for that right? It’s sort of a side effect of that fandom. Um, but it does result in this the same book’s being recommended and my assistant was. Frustrated the other day saying I can’t get book wrecks anymore because it’s always the same same books and so the the whole impulse behind underrated books or undervalued books. Hidden gems. All of it. It’s great because the thing is is that and and I should say this to myself is it’s not really hidden gems or underrated books. It’s just like books that aren’t these five books. It’s ah like this big huge the venn diagram right is like everything else.

11:01.43
jeffekennedy
The 5most popular books and everything else. Um, but anyway she said that she had seen a tick talk video on hidden gems that ah was about a book by colleen hoover ah who is easily the james patterson of romance you know and it’s like not exactly a hidden gym. So so yeah, um, it’s all good I really don’t want to stifle. Anybody’s enthusiasm. You should be able to rave about anything that you like. Whether it’s the same 5 books that everybody else likes or something that nobody’s heard of It’s just a funny, a funny phenomenon I saw somebody quote yesterday um about again about tiktok and how. Maybe the quieter books don’t have the content that makes for good tiktok videos and it’s like I don’t know you know and I think that’s a response to if it’s not about. Big blue aliens was vibrating dicks than it makes for bad content I think anything to make for good content. So anyway, that’s that’s one of my thoughts. Um I was very interested I made a note about this. And I’ll see if I can link to it in the comments. Um, but there was this thing that happened quite a few years ago and I was reminded of it when I was looking up rachel vincent I mentioned her in my podcast the other day. Um, because Rachel Vincent had written that book Stray that I liked very much that was an urban fantasy and when I went to look her up to see you know like what is she doing these days I don’t know rachel I don’t think I’ve ever met her um wish her well in general because I enjoyed her books. So I was looking her up and I found a review of Stray on Dear Author and I think I don’t think dear author is still extant um Jane Litte was one who did dear author with another gal I think it was amy tan and then amy tan backed away. And Jane Litte and Sarah wendell were very good friends and sarah wenddell had smart smart bitches trashy books which I know is still going. Um, but there used to be a lot of back and forth between the 2 but anyway Jane Litte did a review of Stray and.

13:51.36
jeffekennedy
I will link to it because it is in her inimitable style. A really mean review. Um, and it was interesting because at the time she was leading a whole lot of conversation about how authors. Um, should not interact with readers that reviews were for readers and someone pointed out to her that by writing her reviews as dear author and then sincerely Jane as if she was writing a letter to them made it seem very much as if she is writing the review for the author. And not for the readers. She gave the book a d and it was um, it was harsh. It was really harsh and I noticed in her bio on there that she had updated it where she said that she writes. Um, contemporary and and a romance and I happen to know that that’s not the only thing she writes she has a number of pen names. But I remember when it came out that she was also a writer because prior to that it had been a secret and Sarah Wendell had known the secret and had kept it quiet and Sarah Sarah posted an apology and it’s hard to explain how explosive this was at the time because Jane had been so much on this side of that authors should stay out of reader conversations. And reviews are for readers and you know, never the Twain shall meet and she um called out authors for you know, interfering with readers. She was even say she would even say that. Um. Authors shouldn’t even like say thank you on reviews or respond in any way because it would have a chilling effect. I mean there were a lot of these conversations and then it turned out that she had been secretly writing under a pen name. So I found it interesting that her bio now acknowledge is the thing that everybody found out. And the reason they found it out was because of the Ellora’s Cave lawsuit ah because Jane had written a blog article about Ellora’s Cave and all of the things that they were doing to cheat authors and Ellora’s Cave sued her. For slander and just to revisit quickly in order to sue for slander you need to prove that it has had a negative effect on your business and that it is um.

16:36.54
jeffekennedy
I’m not sure if it has to be untrue, but at any rate they sued and her real name which is not Jane Litte her but her actual real life name was named in the lawsuit and so it all came out this way that because it was public record right. So it. It was I believe they settled out of court and then Laura’s cave subsequently folded. But yeah, it was just interesting to recall some of that history. So I thought I would share it. With some of you. But um, you know it’s it’s one reason why I don’t review books that I don’t like um and in some ways I could say that I don’t even I don’t know if I even. Review books because I certainly don’t do a critical review where I break stuff down sometimes I complain to you all anonymously here. Um without naming the book just so I can talk about general principles of story. But um I take it can be It is a narrow line between critiquing the work and being unkind or even mean to an author because you didn’t like their book and. And I think it’s interesting to read this review and I I encourage you to go read it because things have changed since then this was quite a while ago I didn’t look at the date on it but probably something like 2007 2006 given that’s when I was. Trying to figure out my how many words were on a page reference Tuesday’s podcast um so I’m not sure that people would get away with it in the same way now or that they would want to? um. early days of the internet versus maturity where I don’t know maybe the meanness is of a more pointed and different variety. But um, yeah, breaking down someone’s book like that as if you’ve written them a letter and. But it’s posted publicly and then just saying all this stuff and I suppose it’s admirable in some ways that she has not taken these down she clearly stands by them. But I think we have to ask ourselves what we’re doing particularly knowing that she was an author at the same time.

19:23.68
jeffekennedy
It’s um, yeah, a pretty fine line between critiquing work in a thoughtful way and attempting to eviscerate the competition. Ah you know and maybe it comes back to that thing that I was talking about the other day that. You know competition especially in like the reading and writing world. It’s it’s invidious. It’s unfair. There’s no place for it. Maybe that’s part of the frustration with people recommending the same books over and over Again. It’s like well it’s Great. You know and they’re. They’re wonderful books. That’s why people love them. But you can only reread them so many times right? and then you want to read other books. So So I’ve been looking through some things in my tbr trying some different stuff out I’m um. I’m really in the mood for a very emotional lush romance and it doesn’t have to be fantasy if anyone can point me to that I want something. That’s really yeah, emotionally transporting not mean I’m I’m finding I don’t want any of the bully stuff. Um, but yeah, something something really moving hit me with your res please and you all take care and I will talk to you to crew Bye bye.

First Cup of Coffee – July 4, 2022

On writing first novels and going to the ARC stage too soon, why that can be a really rough thing to do to yourself, and other thoughts on competition, Taoism, writing, and life.



Laroche5, 2/19/21, 2:58 PM, 8C, 7850×10233 (121+197), 100%, Repro 2.2 v2, 1/15 s, R85.8, G60.3, B75.9

Transcript
00:02.45
jeffekennedy
Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee.

00:14.83
jeffekennedy
Delicious today is Monday July fourth – the fourth of July everywhere in the world independence day and the US. But um, it’s um. It’s one of those funny. Maybe it’s like an american centrism thing but that we refer to it as fourth of July as if that’s the name of the holiday when it’s actually the date. You know how it goes so if you’re not on video. I could tell you that I am wearing my red white and blue. Well my skin is white I’m wearing red and blue wearing my red chilli pepper earrings. So those are my special celebration of New Mexico very glad to be living in this state. Um, so hope that it’s a good day for all of you. It should be pretty low key for us. Um, there’s going to be a parade here in our neighborhood at 10 but. I think I mentioned this they’ve changed it. So it just like goes around the parking lot at the community center which makes it rather less like a parade to me. Um, for safety I don’t really understand but not much fun to go watch. So. I’m gonna work today gonna get some work. He’s done and keep going on the book I did get some good good words on Friday so hoping to really start. Ah. Getting a consistent output here and then later today will probably go down to the plaza and hear some of the music and be around the people and stuff. Um I know Alex is a little concerned about being around people. So I don’t know. Who knows maybe we won’t do it. Um, they are going to England week after next so they want to be sure to stay join free until then and I think it’s funny. I even said to them last night I said but you’re here now you’re you’re here on vacation now doing a thing and I accept that that the trip to england was very important to them. So.

03:03.80
jeffekennedy
So I was um, excuse me I don’t know if this ah I want to mention something that I saw sorry I’m sort of messing around this because I don’t like to call out people in particular. Ah, but I did see something that gave me pause and I felt like I need to um, just say a few things about it because that’s what I do here. But I saw an author posting. That they had begun their first novel that they were 50 pages into their first novel and that they were looking for ARC readers ah and an ARC is an advanced review copy so when you are asking for arc readers that is the penultimate step to publication and putting it out in the world. You give people arcs with the intention of creating buzz of rewarding perhaps loyal readers of getting. Reviews getting early reviews. So yeah, so an arc is what you do when everything else is in place. Ah and sometimes it can be last minute. Like I will ah very often have the well for traditional publishing usually an arc goes out. Um, it’s the version right? before the final proofing. So. It’s already been through all the stages of editing. It’s been copy edited. But it just needs one more round of proofing and depending on the publisher. There might be several people who proof it the author goes over the page proofs. So ah, the arcs will often say on them. Um, uncorrected proof. Advanced review copy please do not quote without permission because there still might be a few things that change but otherwise it’s really really close to the final form. So if you are. And also writing your very first novel and congratulations. That’s fabulous and wonderful. Your next step is not looking for art readers your your next step should be looking for people to help with critique and.

05:52.70
jeffekennedy
And I understand the impulse to want to race right? to putting arcs out there for people to read but to me that the way it sounds like is if I said um I am building. My first kit car and I’m a week into it I’m about a quarter done and I’m looking for drivers to test it on the speedway I did spend some time trying to think of what a but appropriate analogy would be It’s um, it’s just not ready that you know if I’m building my my first kit car I could have the best instructions in the world I could have the most enthusiasm in the world that doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing it doesn’t mean that it’s ready to get tested on the speedway. The arc is the equivalent of testing the car on the speedway right? You’re seeing if it’ll you know before you actually put it in competition you know and I don’t like to think of publishing in terms of competition that’s something I’ve talked about a lot. Because I think it’s a well as a taoist I think competition is unproductive and actually counterproductive and I probably haven’t talked about that in a long time but I could um. I also take a lot of the competition in publishing is a false What’s the word I want there. It’s it’s just it’s not real I think people attempt to generate it because. Well some people feel competitive and then I think that there is a um I know a tendency for especially in american culture happy fourth of July um, there is a tendency to think that competition. Is good and that it brings out the best in people and I don’t think that that’s true. There have been things over the years where various um book bloggers and so forth would create. Like tournaments between books and encourage the authors to like trash talk the other authors and you know, attempt to garner votes I always hated those things where you had to like try to get votes for your book and you were supposed to you know people are like oh well, it’s all in good fun. You’re just supposed to have a good time. You know like.

08:38.10
jeffekennedy
Trash talking these other books and you know it’s it’s just to like get the books out there. Um, and I just um I never wanted to participate I never thought that it was it didn’t make me feel good. And I think that it it ittensified this idea that books and authors are somehow in competition with each other which is I mean just simply not true that you know if somebody reads one of my books and loves it and goes out there and says where are more books like Jeffie Kennedy’s I’ve read all of them. But can I read now then it’s great that there are other authors out there that have books to to satisfy them? Um, so yeah, that competitive thing is it I still can’t think of the word I want. It’s a false construct.

09:42.71
jeffekennedy
We go I had to go blow my nose tami looks like my lipstick still okay I’m I actually wearing lipstick since I’m doing independent stake colors. So anyway. Ah. We all have to go down into the drugs on competition. But. Give her I understand the impatience I understand the desire to get your book out there to get people reading it I realize that’s a lot of the the culture now with you know, social media and getting feedback and all that kind of thing that you really want that feedback. But. If. You’re a new author if you’re writing your very first book. Um, give your book. Ah a little bit of a chance because when you well if we’re going to extend that analogy if you are doing the equivalent of asking for race car drivers. To take it out on the speedway and tell you and they’re going to put it through its paces. They’re going to drive it as hard as they can arc readers are not necessarily going to be gentle with your first book. And that’s a pretty harsh entry. Um, find people who would be willing to read you read it for you and give you feedback not beta readers critique look ask for critique partners. Um. You know it’s I just think about some of my first efforts where I thought that I was so brilliant and I was so excited and then I would read it over and be utterly deflated because it it wasn’t good. It wasn’t what I wanted it to be. And you just have to get better. Um, and and you get better by doing a lot of it by doing a lot of it and by getting honest feedback. not not Reviews reviews aren’t critique. Reviews aren’t feedback. They’re not supposed to be so all right? We’ll leave that alone. Um I had fun yesterday we went out to breakfast to the tea house and then walked around kenyon road and Kelly and Alex really liked.

12:22.72
jeffekennedy
Seeing the galleries on Canyon Road I knew that they would. We went visited one of a couple of my favorite galleries the longworth gallery which has a lot of fantasy artwork I thought it was funny because one of the artists said they were featuring heavily. Um. They were really pushing the fact that it was metaphorical. Um and they even had like the owner was encouraging us or the manager you know like they got working there was encouraging us to read these screeds on the sides of the paintings and I know that I have been the one saying that I don’t like. Paintings that are untitled and people are like well that’s because you’re a word person. Jeffie and that’s like yeah but I didn’t I still don’t want that many words. Um I found the metaphorical art I mean it was very obviously metaphorical and I wasn’t quite sure why. We needed to be um, taken by the hand and really hammered about the here is the metaphor in my art now there has to be a balance there right? I I really I liked some of this artist’s work. But a lot of it was just I felt like way too heavy handed I liked the simpler stuff. Um, but it was still really fun to see I love going and looking at the fantasy artwork because it it gives me ideas and that’s always great and we went to another of my favorite galleries. Um Carol Laur Roche and so I brought out the postcard um isn’t that great Carol LaRoche does these wolves and other animals too. But for those of you not on video. This is a stylized wolf in red on a black background with red stars. And the wolf’s eyes are blue and glowing and there’s a real sense of both serenity and wildness to it. Maybe I’ll put that on the show notes. But I may frame this little picture I keep wanting to get a print from this artist. But they’re all like a thousand dollars for a framed print and that just seems like so much for for that. Um, yeah, well they were doing a 20% discount winter sale. But this is called. Under the red stars. Um, yeah so art buying art. So let’s see what else um.

15:13.77
jeffekennedy
I also saw a great um at that same gallery that has the fetasy artwork. They carry some um Michael Parkes stuff and they had a wonderful print of Michael Parkes that was called Morning that I really loved the feel of so that was fun to see and. Yeah So then you know we walked around till early afternoon and then I dropped them off again and I came home and I was virtuous and I balanced the books and pay bills and I still need to fit I started crunching royalties and I need to finish crunching royalties. But then I went back over and hung out for a while and drank wine on the portal. So that was um I don’t know kind of a good balance for the day right? and Saturday I don’t even remember. What did we do on Saturday is that funny I guess I mostly hung out. Yeah I think Kelly took the day down to to rest and recuperate and yeah, that’s right I did laundry I did laundry and I did a lot of reading. Um, finished reading this book that was not as good as I wanted it to be so here’s gosh. It’s another example in that I like this author this author has published several books so far. Um, self-published books. Um I found. Some of the previous books to be I mean they’re just not quite gellled yet and it’s hard to explain sometimes why a book hasn’t quite reached the point where I don’t know where it’s a keeper where it’s. You all know I hesitate to say things like assign qualities of good or bad to a book. But this author has a great great premises I really love how they set up. Relationship between the lovers I like the attendant fantasy world. But then it ends up being you know I grow bored reading it because the one thing that. I notice in a book. That’s not as gelled as I would like to see it is that the emotions the emotional intensity don’t seem to arise organically from the characters and I think that some of that is just again.

18:02.23
jeffekennedy
Writing more spending that time writing maybe getting the critique but you know when you get the hair the character sort of exploding into rage or exploding into passion where it hasn’t been built up I read to. I read to 78% and it was sort of to the point where some of the romance had been um, satisfied they I’d gotten a couple of sex scenes I’d been waiting for this author write sex. Well so I had. I’d gotten to that. But even then it wasn’t it just wasn’t quite built up to and I wish and I do try to turn off my editor brain when I’m reading for pleasure. So maybe if I read it again I would find where it’s not quite building up. But at that point it started to feel like. Mostly set up for the sequel and oh and I just wasn’t invested I just didn’t care that much. There didn’t feel like there was enough emotional tension there enough suspense. So yeah, so that kind of left me dissatisfied and now i’m. I’m looking for another great read. So I not that I don’t have hundreds of books in my tbr. But if you’ve read something amazing lately? Um I could use I could use an amazing read I think I’m still coming down from my. Glomming of that other author where I went through and read all of her back backlist and she’s very good, very polished author so it was hard to compare on that. But yeah, give me your Rex I want something I want a good. Emotional ride I might have to bounce out of um, fantasy romance for a little while and try some other things we shall see something with good characterization. All right I am going to get to work on my own. Characterization and emotional tension and I will talk to you all tomorrow if you’re in the us I hope you have a happy independence day thinking good thoughts for the state of our country and I will talk to you all tomorrow you all take care bye bye.

Scrambling for those Awards

A flock of evening grosbeaks came through and hit our feeder hard for a couple of hours at the beginning of March. (Sorry – it’s been a busy month.) They descended like a brilliant yellow cloud, here and gone again, the proverbial ray of sunshine.

I grew up in a suburban housing development where most of the summer activities revolved around the pool. Many of my childhood memories involve long hot days – or chilly days, seeing as how it was Denver – swimming and splashing around. We created tricks to learn, like holding breath and doing handstands or consecutive summersaults with inflatable balls as the pivot.

For holidays and special events, the adults organized competitions. One year, for 4th of July, they lined up all the kids on the edges of the pool. Glittering on the bottom, were coins, all denominations, some real money, some tokens for prizes. When the whistle blew, we were to dive in and grab what we could.

You can imagine the chaos.

The water was icy cold and, though, I could dive down, it was difficult to resurface with so many kids in the pool. Flailing limbs hit me in the face. Water went up my nose. Scrambling hands seized the coins before I could reach them. I felt like I was drowning.

When I think about competition, this is the kind of visceral response I get. My heart strains, my chest clutches. I’m drowning again. Just to grab some quarters.

Today they’re announcing the finalists for the RITA and Golden Heart awards. The phone calls are going out this morning, rolling out to the east coast folks first and following the sun across the country. And yes, Sapphire could maybe be a finalist.

There are good reasons why it likely won’t be. Strongly erotic novels usually don’t final. I’m not sure one ever has. And the finalists already listed are BIG NAME authors. Nora Roberts is up there for one of her J.D. Robb novellas – a series that continues to be my favorite – so for Sapphire to final would be like a newbie actress being nominated for an Oscar along with Meryl Streep.

Or like me trying to grab that dollar coin from the bigger boys.

So, I really try not to dive in. I try to save my swimming for another day, when it’s all about the fun and not about striving for prizes. I realize this makes me the too-skinny girl sitting on the side of the pool. There are other ways to get shiny dollar coins.

For example, last week this gal tagged me on Twitter about a blog post she’d written. She discussed the phenomenon of the self published, formerly Twilight fan-fic BDSM book Fifty Shades of Grey. She also recommended two of my books – Petals and Thorns and Sapphire – instead.

Better than a shiny coin any day.

And I didn’t even have to half-drown for it.

Good luck, everyone!

Topsy-Turvy

We’ve had pouring rain since yesterday afternoon. It’s funny – the stucco gets so drenched you can see the crack-repair material, which is usually invisible.

So, when I was in high school, I was on the Speech & Debate team. Yeah, I know – but you all already knew I was a nerd. But hey! I lettered in speech. Got my green and gold O. Of course, I had no jacket to sew it onto, so I stuck it on my bulletin board with the Octagon Club awards and horse-show ribbons and did I mention I was kind of a nerd?

At any rate, I competed mainly in dramatic interpretation of drama and poetry, plus a memorable stint in duet acting. Overall I did okay. I qualified for the state competitions a few times, but never the national ones. One of the things I noticed, though, was that I was absolutely incapable of knowing when I’d done well in a round. Usually we’d compete in three rounds of 5-6 people, then, if we did well enough, advance to semi-finals and finals. Inevitably, when I thought I’d done badly, I’d won. And when I thought I was great, I’d actually bombed out.

I have no idea still, why this is.

But I’m noticing it with writing, too. Blog posts give pretty much instant feedback, compared to other kinds of writing. Often when I think I’ve posted something clever or interesting, I’ll get bupkis response. And frequently the posts that I fear are muddy, or when I’ve maybe ranted or whined excessively, end up being the most popular and passed around.

I’m seeing it with the stories, too, some. Petals and Thorns was loved in a way that Feeding the Vampire wasn’t as much. Early responses to Sapphire are different than I expected. Not bad – just different. I’ve heard other authors mention this, that sometimes the books they love languish and some of the less-heartfelt books end up selling spectacularly well.

Clearly there’s just no saying.

In speech, I used to try to predict given the reverse logic, but that was never a sure thing either. Sometimes I knew a bomb for what it was. Sometimes I nailed the round and felt it.

This is why I believe in editors.

Tail Sniffing

This time of year is all about purple in the garden. So soothing and lovely.

When I was starting out as a writer, my friends and I noticed the tail-sniffing right away. We were fresh and shiny-enthusiastic, delighted with ourselves, our work and thrilled that other people read what we wrote and talked about it. What had been a hidden desire became public identification. It was a giddy time, full of possibilities.

It soon became apparent, however, that some writers worry more about their position in the pack.

What do you write? is how they evaluate you. Really they want to know how prestigiously you’ve published. It’s not about the money; it’s about the attention. Unfortunately, this kind of professional jealousy just never quite goes away. Someone gets a great publishing contract, then worries that someone else is getting a better deal. You start out as shiny-enthusiastic friends and, after a few years go by, that bonding built on possibilities wears down under the weight of reality. After, we can’t all be the queen-diva. So the friendships fall away.

Some do, anyway.

What’s funny is, I don’t see seminars on dealing with professional jealousy in, say, environmental consulting. Or banking. Or software development. I think this is because those aren’t attention-based fields. The currency is money, not acquiring fans.

The thing is: I don’t think writing should be attention-based either.

So, how do you avoid professional jealousy? Start at home. Here are some rules I’m making for myself.

1) People who read my books are readers, not fans. Fan is from fanatic, which is “a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics.” That doesn’t say reading to me.

2) I wanted to become a writer because I thought that would be an ideal way to make a living. I can tell stories and be paid for it. If I wanted to be a celebrity, I could have chosen another career.

3) The writing isn’t about me. It’s about the story. If it becomes about me, I’m doing something wrong.

4) Jealousy is a sign of insecurity. If I feel jealous about someone else’s deal, editor, agent, etc., I need to look at myself and at why I’m feeling insecure.

5) Focus on controlling the things I can. I can control what and how much I write. I can make it the best I can. Pretty much everything else is up to the winds and how they blow. There’s a freedom in that, if I let it be.

I’m working on more rules, but what about you all? Any more to offer?