First Cup of Coffee – April 17, 2023

Sharing insights I gained from being a guest author at the Jack Williamson Lectureship, including thoughts on emotion in stories and the critical importance of endings – and why you HAVE to finish that book!

First Cup of Coffee – December 16, 2022

Looking back at where I was this time last year and how I really have reduced my stress levels. Also, the difference between writing short and writing long and how not all craft/skill approaches work for both.

First Cup of Coffee – August 30, 2022

Why it annoys me that people are using Taylor Swift’s August on reels about romance books – and people not listening to lyrics in general – and other thoughts on details and what we want from our careers as authors.

Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee. It’s good today is tuesday. August Thirty is almost the last day of August ah, for all intents and purposes here on first cup of coffee. It is last day of August since ah I won’t be podcasting tomorrow so you’ll have to celebrate the end of August without me.

Speaking of August I think it’s funny. This is like a mini mini rant. Ah, it’s a little bit um, cool and cloudy here in Santa Fe this morning not as cool as it was yesterday morning but the clouds are coming in and we may get a little rain. They say by 9 so which means that the mosquitoes are gathering I do have my mosquito candle going here. But yes here in the secret garden it’s ah um, lush but also lush with mosquitoes.

If you’re on video you saw that I just paused because I had something in my eye and I dealt with it and then right as I was unpausing I got something in my other eye started to pause again. That’s why I left anyway August many of you know, um, or. You should know by now if you’ve listened to this podcast for any length of time or know me at all is that I am a total Swiftie. I love Taylor Swift and have for quite some time now and ah to my delight I’ve turned on a number of my friends to Taylor Swift which is not usually me. But um I feel like. There are a whole lot of people out there including like my assistant who sort of buy the um some of the cultural dismissiveness of Taylor Swift and so they’d never really given her music a chance and once I’ve turned them onto. How amazing she is then they um, discovered the genius that is Taylor Swift so Taylor if you ever listen to this podcast because I do feel like we could be besties I want you to know that I’ve gained you like at least. I don’t know 5 fans and I I feel like this is worth something a drop in the bucket to someone with ah her massive audience but still so anyway Instagram keeps Instagram knows that I’m a Swiftie they show me Taylor Swift clips which

Reels which makes me happy I like watching those and um, but they also send me suggestions which I don’t like so much where they say umpty million people have made reels with Taylor Swift’s song August and do you want to do that too and let me be clear. I love the song August I think it’s beautiful. It is August it’s the end of August I mean like all of her music. It’s got beautiful refrains and um, wonderful turns of phrase August sipped away like a bottle of wine. It’s great, right? and. But no first of all I I don’t really want to make a reel which I know I should but I don’t want to and if I were going to I probably would not use the song August and then I saw that one of my umpty friends. Ah a romance novelist did a reel. It came through my feed she yeah and I follow her and she did a reel of like and her upcoming romance novel using the chorus to August so people I know I’m a purist about these things I’m I may be whatever. And might be an extremist about these things I’m perfectly willing to to cop to that. But August is not a love song it not in the typical sense. Um August is told from the point of view.

And you know this if you listen to the fucking lyrics sorry I feel strongly, it’s told from the point of view of a woman who seduces a guy knowing full well that he has a girlfriend and ah the reason that she has the line on there saying because you were never mine is because. He wasn’t hers. He belonged to someone else and he was cheating on his girlfriend with her and I’m sorry people this isn’t the romantic song that you think that it is just putting it out there. Ah I had an argument with another friend of mine who I did turn on to Taylor Swift and has become um, a fan but she doesn’t like the song look what you made me do and I said well how can you not like this song and she said well you know that’s the kind of thing that abusers say and and this is somebody that I I love. Very much and I normally love that she has these strong feelings about you know abuse and fairness and so forth and she said but you know that’s what abusers say they say you know look what you made me do – you make me do this. You know it’s not me. It’s you and I’m like yeah but that’s not what the song’s about. And I said if you listen to the lyrics then you would and she’s like why I didn’t listen to all the lyrics like okay, but and I was talking with my assistant who has become a Taylor Swift

Fan because of me and now part of her assistanting duties have turned out to be following the Taylor Swift Reddit and then she feeds me informationally Gossip which I figure is absolutely part of what I pay her to do and I say that in all sincerity because she was. Telling me interesting information yesterday because we were talking about the album Reputation and as one does and I was saying that I felt like I needed to make one of those unpopular opinion Tiktok reels um, not only ranting about the misuse of August but.

Talking about how you know apparently Reputation is one of her least popular albums which I didn’t know until recently and maybe it’s not true, but I saw something saying that and I love Reputation I Think it’s Great. Um. But it is an angry album and look what you make me do is on there and but you know that album’s all about I tried to be a nice person and you all fucked with me and now you’ve awakened the dragon and I am not going to take it and. You know that’s probably in keeping with my personality but I’m on board with that sentiment all about being a nice generous giving loving person until somebody stabs you in the back and then it’s game on.

So something else I wanted to talk about of remaining notes from Bubonicon over the weekend. Ah I think this is a fairly short topic. So I’ll handle it first is that we were doing a panel on. World building and several of the panelists had been talking about the idea that in some stories with well-done world building that the world actually becomes like a character in the story and that there are even stories like John Varley were literally. It’s the world is an actual sentient character and but that also the world serves as a character in other ways and other stories and at the end during the q and a this one guy put up his hand and I was the moderator. So I called on him and he said well. He said if thinking about the world as a character since characters have to have agency wouldn’t the world have to have agency in order to be a character and I it it was um, it was an interesting question because. Several of the panelists immediately disagreed with his premise that a character has to have agency and then another disagreed that the world doesn’t have agency because she said I’ve been in the mountains that were actually trying to kill me literally trying to kill me.

Which someone else when I was I ended up having this conversation several times over the weekend asking different writers what they thought and someone who tends not to be a very fanciful person said um, Worlds absolutely have agency they have you know. Weather patterns and they have all sorts of things that they do, Um, you know and that’s like if you not even if you buy into like the gaia hypothesis right? which is that the gaia hypothesis is that our world The Earth um. Is in a way a sentient being that is always trying to bring itself back into balance that it has a place it wants to be and that if we push it too far environmentally that it will wipe out the humans So that. It can get back to where it needs to be. You know I heard much about Gaia hypothesis in a long time I feel like we need to bring that back was all of this. Um the climate climate dooming I Don’t think that necessarily comes in as much So Anyway. Ah. The idea of character agency and for those of you who I you know I’ll define. It. Ah, it’s basically the idea that it’s taught to writers a whole lot. Um Editors bring it up often.

In order to keep your characters from being flat or being props where they simply exist for other characters or the world to act upon them. It is not my favorite term I don’t really like talking about character agency in part because my very first book Rogue’s Pawn. Recently re-released. Um my when I was shopping it and even up through the developmental edits with the editor from the press that bought it ah kept giving me grief about how my heroine didn’t have enough agency and and it was frustrating to me because my heroine was a scientist who um, ends up trapped in ferry and she is able to do magic. In that everything she thinks manifests and she has to learn to control her magic but she’s very much a fish out of water and she’s amid the fay who um, do everything by bargaining. And she doesn’t know the rules of the game and she gets herself into several very bad bargains very quickly. Um, and so this whole thing where my editor kept saying oh well she doesn’t have enough agency. She needs to have more agency. You know, like which.

To many means affecting her own fate making choices of her own and that’s like it was really hard in that situation for someone to have agency and it got to be very annoying to talk about So anyway, discuss among yourselves. It’s It’s an interesting thought. Um. I Don’t think a character needs to have agency I think that’s one way about of talking about characterization. Oh The sun is breaking through Oh ah, hello thrasher.

Thrashers are still busily feeding babies.

So I moved a little bit so the sun wouldn’t be in my eyes. Um anyway, interesting thoughts and and I said that we could have had a whole panel on whether or not characters need to have agency I think it’s just one way of talking about characterization and and really not the best way to talk about characterization. Um, why that sun’s really coming through there I scooted more fully.

So um, yeah, it would be interesting to do a full panel on discussing whether or not characters need to have agency so the other thing that I wanted to talk about is I took a um I took I attended a class that. Connie Willis taught ah called the devil in the details and I really admire Connie Willis she’s a SFWA Grandmaster she’s been around for a long time celebrated author um, and also.

I lost track of what I was going to say um Connie Willis so Connie is really a wonderful person. So I find her utterly delightful. She’s incredibly supportive of younger writers. She’s been personally great to me. Um, love love lover and I love her stories to love her books so she gives this very interesting class and I had um, attended something of it before at the Williamson Lectureship but ah.

It was um, less detailed than less detailed than what she talked about at bubonicon which was just her for an hour and I always get something out of hearing her talk so she was talking about the importance of details in the story. Obviously. And giving lots of great examples of um people. But again. So so here we are looping back people paying attention to small things. Ah and she was talking about how readers who are not close readers tend to get very foiled by unreliable narrators. Because they believe everything the narrator tells them and she was using the example of Nabokov’s Lolita because she likes to ask people what happened to Lolita’s mother and she said she finds out that’s kind of a litmus test of who they are as a reader and as she said that I was thinking. Well. Obviously he murdered the mother so that he could get to Lolita and Connie was saying well a lot of people say oh but you know she she died in an accident and she said well how do you know that and they said well it says in the book. It’s like no the narrator tells you that the narrator who probably murdered the mother. So that he could molest this young girl ah told you that and she was talking about how there’s ah justice 1 bit near the end where he mentions how Lolita cries every night cries and cries and by this you know that.

Everything he’s done to represent Lolita as being this temptress who seduced him it’s it’s all a lie It’s all part of his elaborate lie. So this is like on a different scale perhaps but like people not listening to the lyrics of of August and not knowing that. This is not a romantic song. Well not in the way that they think it is I think so but I did take some exception and that because Connie is coming coming out this from a very particular viewpoint right. And she was holding up you know and she was talking about Shakespeare and Nabokov obviously and looking at things from that lens which I think is fine. But. She was using for as a bad example, um of metaphor that Nora Roberts used and she mentioned with a shudder that she just does not like Nora Roberts writing and. It thought well okay, you know which is fair. You know we’re all allowed to like or dislike and and the metaphor she picked out which was not one that I remembered I often very much enjoy ignore Roberts metaphors. Um, and this one was clumsy. But.

You know Nora Roberts is enormously successful. And yeah, it’s ah something that I contemplate often that you know if you listen to this podcast is like what what are we trying to do what are we trying to accomplish. And when I do author coaching that’s one of the things that I ask aspiring authors to think about when they want to you know? How do I plan my career I ask them to figure out. Well, what do you want from your writing career because. If you want to we we all want everything right? We all want to be the best selling author making lots of money. Um with a passionate fandom admired by our peers given awards and.

Remembered for all time. Ah, these are those are generally the things and we want to love our work and tell the stories that we love to write and and be happy every moment and have bon bons and kabana boys to wait on us I think that covers it. So. The thing is is not many authors get to have all of those things. Yeah like the authors who are well remembered for being brilliant. You know like Jane Austen’s one of my favorite examples of that Jane Austen was not wealthy in her lifetime. She wasn’t even all that recognized in her lifetime her recognition as being an author ah being a genius um came long after her death. So you know, maybe it’s still worth it. But I think um. For many of us being able to make a living at it being able to write what we want to write and being able to make money is is important too. You know? So um I would take Nora Roberts career in a heartbeat right? so. For thought and on that note I am headed to world con tomorrow I will be in Chicago if you’re going to be in the neighborhood say hello I probably will not be podcasting for the rest of the week but I will on Monday which is labor day in the United States but um.

I should be here. So hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week. Um, hope those details are ones that are important to you and you all take care Bye bye.