First Cup of Coffee – June 28, 2024

I’m questioning why ANY of you watched the presidential “debate.” On more interesting topics, I’m discussing Romantasy, Paranormal Romance, fantasy worldbuilding vs. vibes, and my ongoing lesson in writing more and faster.

First Cup of Coffee – May 10, 2024

I’m having a rant today, talking about the fantasy genre and how I define it – with supporting details! – and what differentiates Fantasy from a fantasy. Also reviews and thoughts on The Idea of You and Challengers.

First Cup of Coffee – December 18, 2023

The new portmanteau term “Romantasy” being used for Fantasy Romance and Romantic Fantasy, my own personal history with writing cross-genre and being a crack ho, and how I got namechecked in a most validating way!

Me and the Rise of Romantasy

A weird thing about me: I’m always a bit ahead of my time. I don’t know why this is, but it’s been true all of my life. And it’s not nearly as cool as it sounds (if it does sound cool). In truth, it’s not a great thing at all, because it means I’m never in the full swing of the cultural zeitgeist. I’m the odd duck, the one not marching along with everyone else.

Many of you have heard these stories of my trajectory (which implies a straight course and steady momentum which would be entirely incorrect). In summary:

  1. No one knew how to market the weird cross-genre stuff I was writing, starting back in 2007ish.
  2. Catherine Asaro told me to keep going and just know that writing cross genre would be like wading through hip-deep snow.
  3. Agent at a conf in 2010 told me my work fell in the cracks between genres. I cried. Friends dubbed me “Crack Ho.”
  4. I didn’t know I was writing Fantasy Romance until Carina Press took a chance on a crazy, cross-genre kid and published my books under that genre label.


Fast forward to today and the coining of the term Romantasy.

A number of readers have contacted me recently, having just encountered the term, largely via the new Goodreads Choice Awards category. I’m not sure who coined the term, but the portmanteau of Romance + Fantasy has now come to encompass Fantasy Romance and Romantic Fantasy. This has been occurring first in the Indie spaces and now is moving into traditional publishing as they catch onto the trend. Just last February – on Valentine’s Day – Devi Pillai, Publisher at Tor, the notable publisher of science fiction and fantasy (SFF), announced that they’d created a new imprint: Bramble. Monique Patterson, Editorial Director at St. Martin’s Press, moved over to head up Bramble, which will be SFF + Romance.

In very cool news for me, Monique was featured in Publisher’s Weekly Notables of 2023 and namechecked me! (Along with my friend and colleague, Amanda Bouchet.) Monique said:

Romantasy may be the shiny new portmanteau on the block, but the fusing of speculative fiction and romance, Patterson notes, is nothing novel. She points to series by such authors as Amanda Bouchet and Jeffe Kennedy that would likely be categorized as romantasy now, but came out before the term was coined. It was tough putting out such books in years past, but they “would probably do wonderfully now,” she says.

Isn’t that cool? I was so pleased to be mentioned in this context. From Crack Ho to Trailblazer!

Ain’t that just the way it goes?


Fantasy Romance: My Niche and I Love It

THE ORCHID THRONE, book one in the completed Forgotten Empires trilogy, is on sale this month! A great time to escape from winter and revel in this enemies to lovers (she imprisons and plans to execute him!) epic fantasy romance set in a tropical paradise.

This week at the SFF Seven, we’re talking about finding your niche. We’re asking each other, what subgenres speak to you as an author?

This is an easy one for me! My niche has pretty much ALWAYS been epic fantasy romance, even before anyone knew what to call it. That’s just how the stories came out. Which is not a great thing, if you’re writing in a niche before the niche exists. It’s like being a creature ahead of the evolutionary curve, ready for that climate change that has not yet occurred. You can survive (maybe), but not necessarily flourish.

That history makes yesterday’s news particularly exciting for me! Tor Publishing Group announced that they’re kicking of a new romantic imprint! I love that this is clearly publisher Devi Pillai’s baby, as she truly loves to read this sort of SFF/R crossover. Monique Patterson will head up the imprint, and she is a much-admired editor who comes over from the SMP Romance side of Macmillan. Exciting times!

First Cup of Coffee – August 19, 2022

Musings on the amount of romance in fantasy romance and romantic fantasy – and how I seem to want more lush romance feels than many books in the genre deliver. Also squees on reading a Lisa Kleypas historical.

Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I am here with my first cup of coffee.


Ah, today is say it with me Friday! August 19 beginning of a long weekend for me flying to Tucson tonight celebrate birthdays with the family.

Ought to be fun. Um, writer coffee yesterday was a lot of fun. Ah, it turns out that one of my writer coffee peeps the fabulous J Barton Mitchell – Jack – um, who’s got the wonderful podcast. Should pimp his podcast hang on yeah that said it’s called Derelict um, during the second season of Derelict I interviewed him on here a while back. Um, and it’s doing amazing. He was telling us yesterday that they just sold the french. Translation rights for the podcast. So go Jack so anyway, it turns out that Jack’s birthday is on Sunday the twenty first as is the fabulous Darynda Jones she is on Sunday and then I’m on Monday so we’re our little cluster of ah. Leo writer babies. Although I am on the cusp Leo Virgo so I have been described as a meticulous volcano and I mentioned that when. Jack was thinking are you on the cusp of… and I said yes I’m a meticulous volcano and they were both like that’s actually tracks like thanks guys.

I guess there are worse things right? Grapes grapes are falling my grapevine kind of came unraveled too. That’s why it’s sort of dangling in screen if you’re on video I need to wind it up again. But it’s not going to happen till I get back. We should harvest grapes too. But I eat them occasionally. They’re quite delicious. Sweet so sweet. So anyway, writer coffee was lovely. We had a great conversation. Jim Sorenson had just gotten back from a Transformers conference. In England where he was a headliner and so he was telling us about that and so he was pretty high on that It’s always fun when you get to be treated like ah a fancy person I did come out here early this morning and like the mosquito candle. But it’s. Cooler today. In fact, I was wondering excuse my hand you all pause. Yeah, it’s only ° we had kind of um, cold air come in last night so there’s a definite definite autumnal feel this morning. Um, oh. Um, might sneeze there. We go ah longtime listeners at least from last year may remember the debate about autumnal.

And a tu no feel to the air. Ah so yeah, it’s um, cooler and so there are not nearly so many mosquitoes this morning. In fact, I haven’t seen any even though I came out and lit the candle early to try to create a. Dispersing my asthma cause it was very funny yesterday if you’re on video you saw me constantly batting them away and Youtube when I upload the video they pick 3 Stills to be like the cover image and I can choose between those 3 but. Otherwise I can upload an unrelated image. But if I want an image of me sitting here yapping then it has to be 1 of the 3 that they pick and they tend to pick things that are movement. They they like things that are bigger. Movements. So I have to remember to like not. Mess with my hair because otherwise that are all 3 b me raking my hair back from my forehead which my characters do all the time for a reason people because it’s clearly one of my personal ticks. But yesterday’s were all me. Waving mosquitoes away. Um sorry to pick the least absurdly waving of mosquitoes image. Yeah, so it goes right? Ah so yeah, let’s see what else i.

Did get my 2000 words yesterday I’m at something like 62000 on the book I’m enjoying writing this book. That’s always nice and but it took me a little while since I was at writer coffee for a couple of hours and. Then I um I reader did not go to yoga I know I ended up canceling I just got hit with the don’t want us. Um I have to get back in that habit. But it’s so much a thing that by. Yoga class the one that I like to go to on Thursday afternoons is at 4 and by the time it starts rolling around to three o’clock and I have to cancel an hour ahead. So I have to make a decision by like around two forty five and at that point I’m just feeling like all I want to do. Is not have some fun until the sun goes down on Santa Monica Boulevard because that’s all the way over in California but what I really want to do is like sit with my book. Um and relax and so that’s what I ended up doing ah. Bad yoga person but I it was a nice evening and I and I hit tired yesterday afternoon. That’s the other thing is like by Thursday afternoon I’m hitting tired so my other options are to go um in the morning.

Um, there are some like 10 am classes I could go to which means I would have to like interrupt the writing for something other than writer coffee. But maybe I’ll do that I don’t know.

Ah, what was me I know I’m such a a ritualized person here’s my that’s the meticulous part of meticulous volcano. Ah you know I Just don’t like my schedule to be interrupted and now that that’s no longer part of my schedule.

Yeah, So anyway, um, the other thing I’ve been doing interestingly enough I I find it interesting. Do you guys? Do you all ever worry about this like I read this thing a long time ago that people who. Think that they are interesting conversationalists um are not whereas people who think that they are not interesting conversationists actually are most of the time I think I’m not that interesting, but every time I say that I. That something is interesting then I then I worry it’s like oh is it actually not but it’s a way to really freak yourself out. There’s hummingbird behind me oh over here. She’s getting the ah.

Get that naturally made nectar. So Oh and now have I forgotten the thing that’s it. Oh okay, so it’s probably not interesting but I’m going to tell you anyway. So after several reads that. Ah, ones that I enjoyed for the most part one? Um, ah I read book one and really loved book one and went on to work book 2 and ah I I hated book 2 Um. The characters seem to have like the original. The main characters from the first book. The POV characters ah seem to have like totally changed into different people and doing things that didn’t feel like they were part of their character motivations and the. People who had taken over the pov I didn’t care about them and and I got part way into it and I thought it was feeling like a slog you know and and I read it for pleasure I don’t read when I’m not having fun and so I went and looked at the reviews just to see. Like if it was going to get better if it was just me and there were a lot of reviews saying exactly the way I felt about it and and then complaining about that. The ending was so disappointing and I thought okay I’m bailing So I bailed on that book and the first book.

Part of the recent was disappointing was I had liked a whole lot of stuff about this first book. But then it had not really paid off on the romance in the way that I want um and I know that I’m probably different this way because I did come up out of romance. But 1 thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of fantasy romance. Romantic fantasy um YA fantasy even when there’s romance in it. It tends to be pretty romance lite and I want to spell that l I t e ah. It is um, does it dig into the romance feels and I think that maybe a lot of writers writing fantasy hesitate to dig deep into the the really lush parts of romance. There’s sex sometimes. These books did not have sex but I thought that book 2 would then like take me further into that romantic arc and give me the feels both physical and emotional and so it was feeling very um.

Emotionless interrupt us as it were that I had not gotten the the full I don’t know I didn’t get my climax people I did not get my romance climax and so I was in Las Vegas hanging out at the cabana with Megan and wanting something to read I picked up another one that was in my tbr I was very good I cleared out my tbr and read that book because it did give me some nice sexy thrills. But again. Not the full out romance and there are more books in that series and I was not feeling compelled to go on. Yeah so I thought well what I need to do is I need to read ah a romance romance capital r and so I had had Lisa Kleypas on my Kindle for a long time in my tbr. So I am being dutiful clearing that out and she um it was called Then came you and I had read the second book in this It’s just a 2 book series the gamblers so I had read the second one with Derek Craven which is called well let’s find out – Dreaming of You I love – I mean how much you guys love that I can.

Googled the character name I googled Derek Craven and it came right up as dreaming of you Lisa Kleypas um my agent and I were arguing about how to pronounce her name because when I had lunch with Sara at Apollycon.

Sarah said I think she referred to us Lisa Clypus and I said is that how you say her name I mean it wasn’t really an argument and she said well I think it is and I said I’ve always said clypus. It could be that I think that’s how the argument went because I have it my head that’s claypus and she said well I guess I don’t know. But but so correct me if I’m wrong. We could look I’m doing a lot of pausing and looking today. So I was right? It’s CLAYpuss It’s funny when I googled her one of the things that im automatically filled in I’m always entertained by those things was um, what happened to Lisa Kleypas?

I believe she’s still publishing books. So anyway, for whatever reason I don’t remember why it was like in fall of twenty twenty I had read dreaming of you really liked it and then I had bought book one then came you because those characters appear in the second book and I thought oh. Like to read that one and then I never did so I just read it. Um, finished it last night and now I’m doing a reread of dreaming of you and it ah it gave me all those romantic feels that I was dying for It was great and then I was just really noticing. What an excellent author Lisa Kleypas is I mean she’s just such a polished author and I really don’t read a lot of historical romance anymore I think I got glutted on it. Um regency england.

Yeah, but wow she is just um, she gave me exactly the ride I wanted she it was delightful. Absolutely delightful. So I all know. Will I go on a Lisa Kleypas binge? hard to say but I I wish that I could have more fantasy romance that has more dense romance in it like this. So as a result. Well I think dark wizard. Was this way I think all 3 bonds of magic books are a whole lot about Nic and Gabriel’s relationship tell me if you disagree but ah shadow wizard. There’s a lot of Jadren and Selly and.

I think um, some of that lushness and passion from Lisa Kleypas are leaking into it and I feel like this can only be a good thing. So um. Probably I will not do podcasts on Monday and Tuesday ah maybe I will but whenever I say maybe I will it turns into no ah so probably a little bit more vacation. Um, and then. Otherwise I’ll have I’ll be here Wednesday Thursday Friday next week probably just blogging on Wednesday Bubonicon the following weekend if you’re local to New Mexico which I know most of you are not and then the following weekend labor day weekend. How is it labor day weekend already or will be in Chicago for WorldCon. Doing a bunch of programming. Um, so I should probably post my schedule at some point I always wonder about that you know like when you post your conference schedule I see people putting on social media. But it’s like um, does anyone really care because the people who are going to the conference. Are going to look up the program right? and do people who are not going to the conference who would see it on social media and not in the conference program or are all like okay so why post it the social media I don’t know but I am giving a workshop.

Worldcon if you are going. Um I’m teaching ah world building from a character driven perspective so that should be fun and participating in several panels doing a reading and a assigning so I might like pimp the reading. Just so that more than 2 people show up. It’s always the danger with readings at big conferences like that you know if you’re up against someone else like at Bubonicon they do these things that are like 50 minutes with which is essentially reading but you could also like answer questions and stuff. But I’m up against um, 50 minutes with Walter John Williams and then also ah a panel with during the jones and Connie Willis and some others talking about humor. So it’s like um.

Just keep saying that for the 1 or 2 people that come to my 50 minutes with I’m just gonna say how about we go over to the humor panel. We’ll have more fun. We’ll see what happens. so um so yeah busy day for me today. So I’m going to go get to it. I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend I hope you get to have some fun. Um, let me know those of you who read? Romantic fantasy fantasy romance. Are there ones that have really blushed dense romance in them or. Maybe it’s just not something that most people in their genre. Want now. Um, ones I haven’t read. Yeah I know you don’t necessarily know who they are but um, yeah, all right? You all have wonderful weekend. And I will talk to you later take care bye-bye.

When It’s Time to Put New Covers on a Series

This week at the SFF Seven we’re discussing Cover Trends. We’re asking “What was, is, and will be “hot” in cover art/style for your sub-genre? If you have a say in your covers, will you chase the trend or will you stick with the image in your mind?”

There’s a lot to be said on this topic, too much for even a week of blog posts. When I’m asked for advice on covers, which is a frequent request, I tell authors to keep in mind that a cover has two jobs: to attract positive attention and convey genre. This has to be emphasized because authors – both in trad and in self-publishing – tend to get caught up in wanting the cover to adhere to the story. One first-time author who was very upset with the cover her publisher gave her and came to me for advice said “but the cover doesn’t illuminate the story.” I had to tell her that the story’s job is to illuminate the story. The cover does different work: attract the eye and convey genre.
It’s that second that’s most relevant for this week’s discussion. Because trends change and a cover that accurately conveyed genre six years ago may find itself conveying something else entirely to a current audience.
Case in point: I love the covers for my six-book Sorcerous Moons series.

These were among the first book covers I ever commissioned and I particularly adore the cover for book one, LONEN’S WAR. It does come straight from a scene in the book – a pivotal scene that was, in part, the genesis image for the story – and the artist (Louisa Gallie) exactly nailed what I had in mind.

I will always be grateful for Louisa’s gorgeous art and I will always love this cover.

But, recently, people have been pointing out that these covers no longer convey what kind of story these books tell. The fantasy romance genre has moved on. If I want to tell readers that this IS the kind of thing they’re looking for, then I should consider updating to match current trends.

So I did!

Behold: The new cover for LONEN’S WAR!

I contracted with BZN Studio Designs to design new covers for all six books. Right now the series isn’t available, but once I have all six covers, I’ll re-launch the series with some fanfare. I’m super excited to see how they do with the new covers. I’ve heard some people (including my own assistant!) say scathingly that these look like all the other covers out there in this subgenre, and there’s truth to that.


The content is what makes the stories unique. The covers are doing the job they’re supposed to do. Caught your eye, did it? I hope so! And I’m hoping you also know exactly what kind of story you’ll get.

FIRE OF THE FROST Fantasy Holiday Romance Yumminess

This week at the SFF Seven we’re doing a little winter holiday self-promo! Many of you know we had to push back the release of FIRE OF THE FROST, but it’s coming soooooon! We are on target to release on December 22. So if you are someone who celebrates Christmas, this should hit your eReader just in time to relax and enjoy some holiday downtime. 

And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, there’s lots of midwinter, romantic holiday goodness for you, too! Only Amanda’s story is literally Christmas. Everyone else’s is a fantasy midwinter holiday. Mine includes a magical sleigh race and elemental festive lights. It’s a story that takes place in the Bonds of Magic world, roughly after DARK WIZARD and semi-concurrent with BRIGHT FAMILIAR. It takes place at Convocation Academy and you just miiiiigght see some of the characters in GREY MAGIC.

The delay means you have just that much longer to preorder the anthology for the special preorder price, before it goes up on release day.

Here’s the official (still in progress) blurb:

A midwinter holiday fantasy romance anthology…

From Darynda Jones, a standalone novella set in a world where vampyres are hunted for sport. The only thing standing between them and total annihilation is Winter, a warrior bred to save them from extinction. Forbidden to fall in love, Winter cares only about her oaths… until she meets the devilish prince of the underworld.

Of Fate and Fire by Amanda Bouchet

The Kingmaker Chronicles meets modern-day New York City! Piers, an exiled warrior from Thalyria, finds himself in the Big Apple just before the holidays. The world and everything in it might be utterly foreign to him, but that won’t stop Piers from helping to complete a vital mission for Athena and protect Sophie, a French teacher from Connecticut who’s suddenly knee-deep in inexplicable phenomena, danger, and henchmen after an Olympian treasure that should never have ended up in her hands—or remained on Earth after the Greek gods abandoned it.

The King of Hel by Grace Draven

A novella-length expansion of a stand-alone short story in which a cursed mage-king from a frozen kingdom is obligated to marry a woman of high-ranking nobility but meets his soulmate in a lowly scribe.

Familiar Winter Magic by Jeffe Kennedy

It’s holiday time at Convocation Academy, but best friends Han and Iliana are finding it hard to celebrate. As a familiar, Iliana is facing her assignment to a life of servitude to a wizard, very soon. And Han… despite being tested by the oracle daily, he is still uncategorized. As Iliana and Han face being separated forever, they at last find the courage—or desperation—to break the rules and acknowledge their deeper feelings for each other. But it will take more than true love to save them from the laws of the Convocation…

 And here’s a little snippet from my story, Familiar Winter Magic:

Once the races finished, Iliana let Han talk her into more dancing. With the excellent whiskey warming her blood, not to mention the heady glow of Han’s undivided attention, she could hardly resist. She loved him so much and he was right: this was their last Founding Festival together. Rather than try to hold him at arm’s length, in anticipation of their imminent parting, she decided to enjoy his company while she could.

Han at his most charming was impossible to refuse. Which would be a major problem when he manifested as a wizard, but she wouldn’t think about that tonight. Since it was a holiday, the thought-seekers gave everyone a break—and were celebrating themselves. The festival was a rare excuse for everyone to loosen up.

A little bit tipsy, the lights and dancing making her feel giddy, she danced with Han until she was so warm she had to shed her cloak. Among his many skills, Han was also an excellent dancer—far better than she, but he was so skilled that he made his partner look good—and they found themselves more than once in a circle of cheering spectators as he whirled her through the vigorous dances.

Then the music slowed, and she fanned herself, blowing out a breath, and headed off the dance floor. Han caught her hand. “Hey, where are you going?” Expertly he twirled her under his arm, then snugged her close, a hand on the small of her back as he led her through the dreamy rhythm.

Iliana braced one hand on Han’s chest, his heart thumping rapidly beneath her fingertips, his blue eyes lambent in the starry light. “We never dance the slow dances,” she breathed.

“A grievous lapse of judgment on my part,” he murmured, gaze traveling over her face. “You feel perfect in my arms, lovely Iliana. I want you here forever.”

She tore her gaze from his heartbreakingly beautiful face, focusing on his throat instead. That wasn’t much help, as his skin begged to be kissed and nibbled. “I don’t understand what’s changed between us, why you’re being so…”

“Seductive?” he suggested in a warm purr. “Devastatingly handsome and charming?”

Snorting, she made a face at him. “Aggressive. And annoyingly persistent.”