First Cup of Coffee – June 30, 2023

Tough love talk on how our families and the people who love us most can be the biggest obstacles to getting that writing time. Related: wants and needs, the difference between them and how other people try to tell what ours are.

First Cup of Coffee – January 23, 2023

On husbands and their Opinions™ and other thoughts on women as writing and publishing professionals. (Yes, this particular dynamic is a binary, IMO.) Also maybe my new author headshot?

First Cup of Coffee – May 3, 2022

Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of fantasy romance and romantic fantasy. I am here with my first cup of coffee. Ah, how that’s needed today is Tuesday may third and I’m running behind I’m just totally behind Today. It’s almost nine here. Ah I think I was um more stressed out than I realized about my folks car accident that happened on Sunday I talked about it some on the podcast yesterday but they’re both home now. My stepdad had to spend the night in the hospital and ah. But he did not require surgery on his arm. He has to get it checked out again in a couple of weeks so I think they’re fine I have not heard yet from my mother this morning I’m assuming she’s still asleep and then um David had some problems with his medication last night. So he had to wake me up and have me help him with that and so it took me a little while to go back to sleep again. So I just slept this morning I didn’t get up until like six thirty so why is it already almost nine I don’t know I’m also moving slowly actually I don’t think I got up till 7 now. That’s true I didn’t get up till seven so I’m still moving slowly I did my weightlifting I did my stuff writing sucked yesterday I did not get much done. I tried I did my 3 hours it was not very good. But um, my friend Kelly Robson said thought she was it was interesting. What she said I’m gonna see if I can bring up her exact words. Let’s take. We’ll see if the computer lets me.

Might take forever for the she said she said that I wasn’t emotionally available for fiction. She said for writers like us who are all about emotion. She said. That she could totally write like wine reviews on the day her father died but she couldn’t write fiction and I think that’s interesting. Do we think that’s true I don’t disagree with her. It just doesn’t feel that way to me, but certainly i. Had very little writing I could do yesterday I’m also feeling um, a bit at a loss on how to get to the end of this book I’ve got about 25000 words to go I know what it’s going to be more. Maybe I don’t I feel like I don’t quite have all the threads in my grasp but I may start at the beginning. Yeah excuse me I thought I was gonna sneeze again. But I didn’t sorry, didn’t i. Pause and time for that first one. So yeah I’m thinking about going back to the beginning and starting my the revision. Um I’m wondering if I know enough about the end to do that. Those of you who have listened to me for a long time will probably identify the stage at which I am it’s the act 2 climax um, and yeah, but now that I think about it and I hear you guys out there nodding along. This probably is my standard act 2 climax crisis and I do need to go back to the beginning when I couldn’t get much done yesterday I did go back and like start searching for my square brackets and looking up some things so that I could at least be semiproductive and I went. Back through? Um, my kindle notes on the prequl novella and put those into a ah word document and I’m gonna do that for the other books too. So that I can try to order my thoughts and then maybe I will start the revision today. Um, that’s probably the thing to do I’m noticing this grapevine. That’s ah crawled up on top of the lilock I need to train that to come back on over to the actual arbor.

I had to move over to the side because I’m so late and the sun was really shining on my usual chair can see see very sunny once the arbor finishes leafing out that won’t be such a problem but it’s still. Still baby leaves this one to see for those you on video see just like little bits of leaves. It’s my hanging plant that I po it myself. So um, yeah. Try to get back into it. It sounds like my mom won’t need me to come to Tucson so we’ll see we’ll see how that goes. Um, it’s a very beautiful morning here and the lilacs really. Blooming so I’m going to cut some eye locks and put those in my office and yeah, I’m clearly muzzy headed. So let’s see. Um. I left my note inside but I know what I wanted to talk about. Um I mentioned yesterday that we’ve also been watching Julia about Julia Child and I’m very much enjoying the show. Actually we’re both really enjoying it. Um, which is always good thing but it’s about when. Julia Child first started her Tv show and how she went about doing that and it was um, it’s it’s really well done in that the gal that they’ve got playing Julia child and I can’t think of her now her name now. I should look it up though all right? So her name is Sarah Lancashire and she’s a british actress 2 years older than I am and she’s a tall gal I don’t know she’s as stout as Julia or if she’s wearing um you know padding and so forth. But they’re not trying to make her be other than some of the things that made Julia child so I don’t know I want to say endearing iconic that she was um, you know. She was awkward. She was not a graceful person. So I’m thinking of other people who played Julia Child is it um did Meryl Streep play her in that one anyway. Ah sarahrakisher does a great job because she does the funny voice and people were Mark on.

Her funny way of speaking and she is not beautiful and she is not graceful but she has also managed to perfectly transmit. The um, what people loved about Julia Child her warmth of personality. And how she did not take herself seriously and and at the same time that she had this ability to be completely. She was the velvet steamroller right? She she stood up for herself and stood up for what she wanted to do. Which wasn’t easy and she um she I want to say that she like very gently gets her way. She believed so utterly in what she was doing and this episode that we watched the other night. Which let me see if I can go back and tell you which episode we’re on. We’re almost done which is sad. It’s been one of those slow drip releases. Um, it was episode 7 fog ra and I think. Yeah there’s just 8 so Thursday’s going to be the last episode alas, ah but it was really great because she goes to New York city along with other people who work on her show and she you know. Gives the speech as she does gives this wonderful speech and several things happen. Um, where it’s almost like a romancing the stone theme through this movie in that or this series in that. Um. Some people are completely disdainful of what she’s doing you know a cooking show on public television. Nobody watches public television then there are the people who think that public television should only be about things that are erudite and deep. Ah her editor who ah you know that sort of that her her primary editor is great but then there’s the gal who’ is the head of Knopf who ah you know published Julia’s cookbook um the gal who is the head of Knopf doesn’t own a television. Um. And thinks that television is is a fad that will go away and that only books are permanent. It’s it’s interesting to see the interplay of sort of these changes in thinking about stuff and but everybody’s just kind of

astounded that all of these housewives are watching this cooking show and making the food and they go to lutes in New York City the publisher takes Julia and her editor out to lunch at Lutece. And I and I have to do a little aside here because I I even paused and told David that um you know every once while I have as a writer like this kind of jealousy where it’s like well I never had the head of the publishing house take me out to Lyn at Lutes in New York or the equivalent. Don’t even know if flutes is still there but you know times have changed obviously. But also I have never been high dollar enough. But then I thought well at the same time. However I have had my 2 different editors take me out for lunch. 2 different occasions and take me out for dinner. Um I’ve had no 3 editors so a couple editors different editors have taken me out for dinner at conferences or different places and my agent has taken me out for lunch and dinner and. You know? So it’s sort of like it’s not quite on the glam scale. But then I have to be really thankful and count my blessings for what I have had which has been pretty wonderful and and the yes it is incredibly shiny I remember in 2019 and the before times I was at. Um Rw a national conference in New York City and that was when my editor at St Martin’s did take me out for lunch at a very decidedly low g glam place but she was a young editor and that was you what she she could afford and I still. You know, appreciated it and it was lovely and my agent went to and we all got treated um and that was um and my excuse me my publicist went to this was all, um, right before the release of the orchi throne and we were all super excited about it. But. Feels like kind of an innocent age ago I think the orchid throne did fine. It just didn’t do as well as maybe as they hoped and then we had such big plans for the follow up for the fiery crown and that was may of 2020 you know so it was kind of um. As far as paper books go kind of a big fizzle. Alas, but at the time we were very excited and when I got to New York city I you know flew in kind of midday and then I went to meet agent Sarah that evening for drinks and walked the.

You know like 10 blocks to her office from the hotel and it was um, it was very shiny and I thought here I am walking through New York city to go have drinks and dinner with my agent in New York city and it was it was awesome um and to continue the aside there has been a ah an article going around by ah Christine Katherine Rush on why you should hire an ip attorney instead of an agent and she makes you know as she does. She’s good at writing stuff up. And she makes compelling arguments for why? an ip attorney can be really useful to negotiate a contract for you and how they have more credentials than an agent does. And yeah. Now if you’re looking for a 1 ne-off negotiation then you probably are better off hiring a lawyer and her argument is is why would you? you know bulk at paying a little bit of money upfront to pay a lawyer and or maybe more than a little bit as opposed to paying 15% in perpetuity to to some agent who doesn’t even have all these qualifications and if that’s your lens sure. Um, and I I don’t want to I don’t know if I’ll go into it later this week if you guys really want to hear me talk about it. You know where to find me ping me about it. But um, the she these kinds of and I’m going to call it well I won’t call it I won’t use that word. Um, but that particular angle and I have seen. Other people passing it around self-pubishing authors who are on the virulent end of the spectrum of this is you know tread publishing is evil agents are evil and I’m not saying that’s rush’s perspective but the other people who are sharing it. You know that this is why you should. White agents are evil and why you should never have an agent and it’s um, it’s ignoring the very real things that agents can do for you besides taking you out for drinks and dinner. Um, and if you guys want me to talk about that I will. But I won’t do it today because this is already a long parenthetical back to Julia um, she’s at the french restaurant and the french the chef the head shop of of lutes comes to her and knows who she is.

And and this is sort of the romancing the stone aspect to it is the surprising people who know exactly who she is and the chef says um that they have all of these people coming in who have watched the show and requesting particularly dishes that she’s cooked on the show wanting to have them at Lutece. And even things like sweetbreads and but then you know it. So it’s lovely and delightful. But then he follows up and this is ever so slightly spoiler spoilery so cover your ears if you want to know nothing but he then advises her to leave the cooking to the men and that is. Cooking is you know french cooking is is not for women which is ironic but then the the show finishes up towards the end. Um Betty Friedan is at the big press dinner for the public television awards. And she and Julia start talking and Julia in her very earnest, warm and welcoming way invites Betty to ah to talk because it betty has seen the show and betty launches into a diatribe that. She is um that Julia is setting back the cause of the women’s movement that she is encouraging women to be behind the hot stove more instead of going out to the world and it’s such a. It’s well done. It’s such a crushing moment because we know because and Julia says to Betty for then you don’t know me at all and and it’s true and we who have followed Julia’s journey do know her and we know how very hard she has fought in a very feminist way. To make this show happen in this very male dominatated world and her producer is a young black woman who has also been fighting by her side and it’s like Betty Friedan just like totally doesn’t get it because she’s hung up on the cooking aspect and. The other thing that she doesn’t understand is just because this is a traditionally female activity of cooking dinner and that it’s these housewives who are doing it that it’s about mastering something. It’s about the sheer delight of. Being able to master a skill and have it go right and wrong and I’ve I’ve talked on here many times about throwing knives and that analogy of learning as you try to learn to do something to enjoy the failures equally as well as the successes.

To enjoy when you don’t stick the target as much as when you do which is a very taoist perspective and it’s not easy to learn but Julia child really had that in her show because sometimes when you cook things don’t turn out sometimes it just doesn’t bread doesn’t rise or the sauce doesn’t thicken correctly and she had a real talent for ah enjoying it anyway where she’d be like oh well that didn’t happen and. And there was there’s a great lesson in that and so it was um, you know it’s just interesting the thing that things that people grab a hold of you know and proclaim as being worthwhile and not and serving the cause and not. So yeah I I mentioned that I’ve been listening to poetry and a new to me poem that I don’t recall the name of sorry in the sequence that Tom Hiddleston was reading I’ll leave the link up and it was um. It was very sad. It was about um, ah, a man the poet catching I think it was a male but catching a hedgehog in the mower. It might have been called the mower and and he finishes up you know and it’s about how how he’s caused this this small death. And he finishes up by saying something along the lines of you know that we should all be a little bit kinder to each other and I’m I’m thinking of that now with Betty for then you know it’s like we could all stand to be kinder to each other. And on that note I am going to go get to work see if I can make this more productive day than yesterday I hope you all are being productive in the ways that you want to be and I will talk to you all on Thursday bye bye.

Feminism and Romance Novels

CPoaBK0UYAQHKF8I got this photo the other day, on the autumn equinox. Maybe it’s the Celtic ancestry, but I love to commemorate the solstices and equinoxes. Part of marking the journey of the year.

Last spring, at the RT Convention, I gave a workshop on Walking the Line of Consent. (I also teach it online or can visit to give it – description here.) This is a topic I’ve been interested in for a long time, one that I’ve written and talked about a fair amount. And one I’ve gotten grief for. In fact, when I proposed this workshop, a couple of author friends warned me against doing it. They said I might get myself in trouble.

And the RT book reviews website asked me to write a short article about my thoughts on the topic, which generated good conversations. Another author, however, started a bit of a witch hunt among her followers against me, making me out to be a terrible person for championing anything less that full consent.

Which I do, in real life. I maintain that fiction is something else, a place where all fantasies are acceptable.

At any rate, the workshop went off amazingly well. A gratifying number of people attended and they all stayed for the whole thing! After the fact, one of the gals who attended, , contacted me and said she was writing an article on the topic for Aeon Magazine, and asked if she could quote me since I said such smart things about it.

How could I say no to that?

So today the article came out and it’s so good. She articulates a lot of the same ideas I’ve had about romance novels for most of my life. In an era where the media loves to sling about terms like “bodice ripper” and “mommy porn,” just to up the click rate, it’s terrific to read something both smart and romance-positive.

I’m flattered to be included!

Taking Time to Think about the RWR Cover

Sunset in Eldorado at Santa Fe by Jeffe KennedyAs the weather warms up in Santa Fe, the sunsets get more spectacular – double the blessings!

So, I seldom wax terribly feminist in writing. I’m sure more than a little of this is due to my Texas grandmother’s voice in my head reminding me to be pleasant, soft-spoken and not to ruffle feathers. Which I totally get is part of the problem. Still I tend to avoid conflict and sometimes I don’t voice my opinions for that reason. Of course, I have other, very good reasons for not voicing my position on some subjects, at least not publicly.

But this one has been bugging me for quite a while.

As you all may or may not know, I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and remain an enthusiastic supporter of the organization. RWA is the premier professional organization for romance writers, which means it’s composed primarily of women. There are no absolute numbers for this, as some men write under female pseudonyms, other writers consider themselves gender-flexible and, of course, there’s no gender-reporting requirement. Still, if looking around the room at the National Convention is any indicator, we’re probably talking over 95% female.

I frankly love that about RWA. There are very few arenas in my life where the community is so strongly female and – in the words of Cinderella from Into the Woods – it makes for a nice change. I think more people than I feel this way. Sure the male members joke about being outnumbered, but I figure, hey, welcome to the non-male experience. I embrace the overwhelming femaleness of RWA and feel that should be celebrated. Certainly that fact should be front and center in RWA’s branding.

So why isn’t it?

This is what has me riled up. (Hi Grandmother!) The cover of the April 2015 Romance Writers Report, our official magazine, looks like this:

RWR April 2015The lead article is “Master of Your Career,” which… okay, fine. “Master” is grammatically correct and we’re all supposed to be good with the word being gender neutral. It might look silly to have “Mistress of Your Career,” because that word doesn’t denote mastery of anything at all. Which is a sad truth, right there. I probably wouldn’t even have given it (much of) a second thought, except for that image.

Men’s shoes.

I mean, decidedly masculine shoes. Not even gender-neutral shoes, like sneakers or some such, that could be seen either way. Now, I know that probably Corn Creative, who does the magazine design, likely came up with this and didn’t give it a second thought. I think that graphic designer is female, too. It looks like she does work for many publications, including the Society for Neuroscience, which I can vouch from personal experience skews the gender proportion in almost the opposite direction. Maybe she didn’t think about it and just picked a strong image.

What I’m saying is, maybe we should think about it.

I’m saying this also coming off a call with Agent Connor where he (strongly) suggested that I reconsider some of the naming in this new fantasy series I’m working on, as it can be viewed as cultural appropriation. And yes, it irritated me that he said that and I might have replied that we all belong to the human race and that the Celts came up out of India and at which point do I have to stop retracing my cultural inheritance?

(I know, I know – send him a nice note for having to deal with me.)

I’m no less irritated about that now, but… in the clear light of day I’m seeing that he’s likely right. I needed to think about it and avoid causing that offense, if I can. Which I can because it’s really not necessary. And it’s an important courtesy.

These things ARE important. Ruffled feathers or no.