Of Grapes, Blue Moons and Real Writers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also: fresh lobster!

Happy weekend everyone! 🙂

Party! Party!! Party!!!

AfternoonDelight finalA great big HAPPY BIRTHDAY goes out to my delightful friend and brilliant critique partner, Anne Calhoun!

Yes, she was born on September 11, which is a date shaded with bad feels now. In fact, 9/11/01 was a milestone birthday for her – and she was in Manhattan.

Right?

I think we can make THIS birthday a titch more fun!!

In one of those serendipitous co-occurrences of fortune, Anne and I have almost overlapping release dates this week, too. Rogue’s Paradise, book 3 in my Covenant of Thorns trilogy, came out on Monday, and Anne’s fabulously sexy Afternoon Delight, first in her new IRRESISTIBLE series (who can resist that??) comes out next Tuesday.

So many things worth celebrating at once that I just can’t even!

Therefore, I propose a game. For the next 24 hours, from midnight Central US time on September 11 up until the hands of the clock switch over to September 12, I want you to give Anne gifts.

Virtual ones.

Send her pictures of what you think she’d love. Tweet them to us, at @jeffekennedy and/or @annecalhoun – be sure to use the hashtag #annebday. Or paste them to our Facebook pages! Stick that #annebday hashtag on there and put them on https://www.facebook.com/Author.Jeffe.Kennedy and/or https://www.facebook.com/anne.calhoun. We’ll be picking our favorites, too, and sharing them. Be creative! Have FUN!

And….

Oh, yeah – we’ll be giving away books! I’ll be giving away two digital copies of Anne’s Afternoon Delight and Anne will give likewise two of my Rogue’s Paradise. International is okay, since these are digital!

We’ll also be giving away each other’s backlists. Watch our Facebook and Twitter feeds – especially that #annebday hashtag – for flash giveaways from us and our partygirl friends!

Can’t wait for this party to get started!

~runs off to chill champagne and heat up dancing boys~

Why I’m Not Ashamed to Travel Heavy

Colorado comes up with some pretty great skies, too. Credit where it’s due!

I’m back from the long Birthday Weekend – our annual family celebration in which we all gather someplace fun and whoop it up in honor of three birthdays: mine, my aunt’s and my stepdad’s. Because this year was Stepdad Dave’s Big Birthday (75), he got to choose the location and he picked his favorite spot, Lake Dillon. Stepsister Hope made an appearance from Tucson, too, which made it all that much more fun. 

We arrived at the condo Friday evening, had some great meals, drank a lot of wine, hiked a bit, boated some, shopped the outlet mall, hung out a lot. On Monday morning we headed down to Denver and took in a Rockies game that night. Baseball is seriously the only sport I like watching – mostly because I get to sit outside in nice weather and drink beer, I think. The stats and strategy appeal to math-brain me, too.

On Tuesday morning, David and I drove home to Santa Fe and settled back in.

One thing this kind of multi-stage trip meant, is that we loaded and unloaded the car several times. And, because we took my two-seater jag to make the road-trip even more pleasant, the loading part involved Tetris-like skills to fit everything in. Though we divested ourselves of birthday gifts, I ended up receiving some, too, so that was a zero-sum game. I  may also have acquired a few things during our shopping excursion. Also, the chilly late-summer nights in the mountains required layers and the range of activities from boating to fancy dinner out demanded multiple outfit types.

At least for me.

David, of course, brought a smaller suitcase, but I brought my bigger one. No dash-bag for this kind of trip.

This is one of my things – I travel heavy. And yeah, those of you who read me regularly know I travel quite a lot, for fun, the day job and the writing career. Seems like I always encounter the common wisdom that you should learn to travel light. The advice is always how to maximize carry-on space, mix and match outfits, turning things inside-out for additional wearings. The mantra is presented as a personal virtue – as if there’s something good and right and holy about traveling light.

I say balderdash to that.

I travel heavy and I’m not ashamed. If I’m working for five days? I bring at least six outfits. Maybe I’ll have a wardrobe error with one. Maybe I’ll drink too much beer at the baseball game and the tight waist on that one skirt won’t fit right. Maybe I just plain won’t feel like wearing something. Because I travel a lot, I want the comforts of home with me. I have no desire to do without. I bring my furry house slippers and my favorite hair-dryer.

Wearing clothes I feel good about, when I want to, that I feel like look good, is a big part of my confidence, my public face to the world.

Yes, my suitcase is heavy. I figure, as long as I’m willing to lift it myself, I have that privilege. It can be funny, because I’m a fairly small woman, but I’m stronger than I look. More than once I’ve handed my suitcase to a cabbie who then sagged under the weight, looking surprised. I do try to warn them, but that doesn’t mean they listen.

David, though – he always carries my suitcase for me. Every time. Always I tell him I can carry it – because I do feel a little self-conscious that it weighs three times what his does – and always he gives me his slow smile and says he’ll get it. I hear the words he doesn’t say. He loves me. He accepts me for who I am, heavy suitcase and all.

Gifts beyond price.

Writing Cheerleaders – and Naysayers

Some of the birthday sussies from my writing gals. Allison Pang sent the fab martini glass. It’s a quote from Dorothy Parker: “I like to have a martini, Two at the most. Three, I’m under the table. Four, I’m under my host.” Apropos in so many ways! Marcella sent the dramatic Mardis Gras ring, which embodies Ruby. And Laura Bickle sent the gorgeous sun pendant, which has a special meaning, celebrating this summer.

This kind of support – thoughtful celebrations like this – mean a great deal to me as a writer. It can be a lonely and difficult business, so these little joys, and reassurances that someone else cares, can make all the difference.

We all know – there always seem to be plenty of people waiting to undermine what you’re doing.

I read this article the other day. It’s an excellent and insightful essay by nonfiction writer Rebecca Solnit on how men reflexively tend to explain things to women. Often without regard for the woman’s expertise and education. And if you guys out there are feeling irritated – I followed this link from a male Twitter friend, who recommended it. But it was funny, as these things often seem to happen, I read this article on the same day that I had an annoying encounter.

We were having lunch with one of David’s colleagues and the conversation was quite stilted. At one point, I think in an attempt to find a congenial topic – and to include me in the conversation – David said that my book had come out a few weeks ago and my pic was in the NYT. The man looked puzzled and asked, “your book?” I said yes, the most recent one. He asked how many I have written, so I explained about the various novellas and the recent published novel. When I finish, he frowns at me and says, “I thought it was really hard to get published.”

I was so taken aback that I didn’t have an immediate reply. Other than to toss my hair and giggle. He didn’t need me to answer that, though, because he launched into a story about a friend who wrote a book – which he thought was a really good and valuable book – and could never get it published. I just nodded, smiled and ate my lunch. And let him explain the publishing business to me.

I’m at a point in my career where this kind of idle slam means little to me. I can shrug it off, because I clearly have more expertise in this arena than he does. Yes it’s difficult. I happen to be good at what I do. Plus, I’m persistent – something his friend wasn’t.

But for all of you out there still aspiring, who don’t have that real- life experience to fall back on? Don’t listen to these people, please. Never listen to the people who haven’t done it.

And trust in yourself and your own dreams. Your own persistence.

Have a great weekend everyone!

How to Stay Young Forever

We just spend the weekend in Las Vegas, celebrating my mom’s birthday.

I may or may not be hungover still.

This was a big birthday for her, with a zero at the end. I’m not allowed to say how old she is, but I’m 45 and she was 24 when I was born. You do the math.

And, yes, feel free to be awed by how fabulous she looks.

The four of us, my Mom, Stepdad Dave, my David and I had the best time. We went to see a burlesque show that was amazing (Crazy Horse, at the MGM), drank pitchers of mojitos at the pool, walked all over, saw Phantom of the Opera, lunched at Sammy Hagar’s and walked all over some more. My David commented that we could hardly keep up with them.

Good times.

When my David said how full of energy they are, they said they just don’t feel old.

Amen.

And many, many happy returns, Mom.

Gifts Beyond Price

Look! Yes, it’s an obsidian necklace (with a bit of citrine). My lovely friends Marcella and Laura sent me this for my birthday.

My actual birthday isn’t until next Monday, but the timing worked out to open it yesterday, which was perfect.

See, Marcella lives on a sail boat and goes from harbor to harbor around Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands right now. She was trapped by bad weather in a harbor without WiFi for several days. And Laura is under deadline and has gone Walden Pond (staying away from the interwebs for August). So we had to find a window when the three of us could IM conference while I opened my present.

The gift is particularly poignant, because yesterday I also received the contract for my novel, Obsidian, from Carina Press.

Yes, that counts as the official announcement!

I am so blessed in so many ways.

And I plan to wear my necklace non-stop.